Foreign enrolment in German universities reaches record high

Posted 30/10/2014 by maavn
Categories: Articles

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icef monitorYes, this is from July 2014 but it’s still interesting and worth sharing.  :-)  As someone who has spent considerable time in Germany, including as a student, I agree with points made in this ICEF Monitor article.

Germany ranked 10th among Vietnamese studying overseas in 2013 with 4,600 students.  Since there are not many young Vietnamese studying German, despite the best efforts of the Goethe Institute in Hanoi and the German Mission in Vietnam, the growth in the number of programs offered in English will give more Vietnamese students the opportunity to study in Germany.

Below is an excerpt.  Follow this link to read the rest of the article.


Germany is well on its way to an ambitious goal of hosting 350,000 foreign university students by 2020. The latest figures released this month by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) reveal that 300,909 foreign students were enrolled in German universities in 2013/14, representing roughly 10% of the total higher education enrolment in Germany this year. This compares to 282,000 international students in 2013, and is up from 246,000 students a decade ago.

This growing enrolment base places Germany among the top study destinations in the world, after the US and UK certainly, but contending with China, France, and Australia for the number three rank among major global destinations.

”Germany is an exceptionally attractive place to study and research. This is also the result of our global information and marketing activities for higher education in Germany,” said DAAD President Margret Wintermantel. DAAD maintains a network of 70 branch offices worldwide and supports a wide network of lecturers and German studies centres as well.

DAAD reports that engineering degrees and graduate studies are some of the areas of greatest demand. Roughly 55% of Germany’s international students are from Europe. Another 30% are from Asia and 6% come from North America. The prospect of learning German may be daunting for some but the challenge is eased by the fact that as many as 1,600 programmes at German universities are taught in English.

As is the case for other major destinations, China is the number one source of foreign students in Germany. However, German institutions are reporting strong enrolment growth from South Asia – India and Bangladesh in particular – as well as Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Speaking to Student World Online, Chinese student Tianjue Li said, “People enjoy an outstanding quality of life here, with food security, a clean environment, well-covered health insurance, freedom of speech, etc. Yet the reason why a great number of Chinese students go abroad for study is mainly because of their dissatisfaction with the domestic education system, the leading standard of higher education in Western countries, and the globalisation in China right now.”

German Education Minister Johanna Wanka echoes Tianjue Li’s point regarding the importance of internationalisation: “Excellent education needs international exchange and the basis for that are universities which are open to the world and in which everyone from professors to administrators to students provides a welcoming environment.”

A commitment to affordability

Germany certainly qualifies as welcoming. Education News notes that the vast majority of university students in Germany attend public institutions, where tuition fees are either strikingly affordable or non-existent. “A German student at a public university will pay US$300 to US$2,000 in fees,” notes Education News. “A four-year public college in the US will charge US$8,893 for in-state students and US$22,203 for out-of-state students…In Germany, tuition fees are not applicable. In 2005, several German state universities tried to charge tuition fees, albeit small ones, but the public voted it down. The only universities that still charge tuition will stop doing so at the end of 2014.”

Dr Herbert Grieshop of Freie Universität Berlin speaks to the different motivations that German institutions have to build their international student numbers: “Despite the fact that we don’t charge fees in Germany – and therefore don’t have any financial gains from foreign students – we actively recruit internationally, particularly at Master’s and Doctoral level. We believe that internationalisation of teaching, research and of our campus as a whole is a step forward and will also help to solve the demographic issue that universities in Germany will have to face rather soon.”

DAAD notes that even with the minimal fees charged, the economic impact of the sector is nevertheless substantial. Foreign students in Germany spent an estimated €1.5 billion in 2011, and generated tax revenues of roughly €400 million.

At TPP, Vietnam, developing nations come under US onslaught on affordable cancer treatments

Posted 26/10/2014 by maavn
Categories: Articles, Commentary

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Below is a repost of an article that originally appeared on 23 October in Thanh Nien News and was picked up by  There are basically two sides in this debate:  1) those who support profit over people; and 2) those who support people over profit.  Unlike most things in life, it’s really that simple.  Whose side are you on?  Affordable medicine is a human right.  MAA

Vietnamese cancer patients, many of whom have succumbed to the disease due to high drug prices, are likely to pay even more if their country falls prey to a US-led attack aimed at handing out largesse to American Big Pharma in a regional free-trade pact, critics say.

A man holds a placard as he takes part in a protest against Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks outside the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan in April 2014. Photo credit: Bloomberg

A man holds a placard as he takes part in a protest against Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks outside the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo, Japan in April 2014. Photo credit: Bloomberg

The US, which has already sought to hand stronger monopolies to the drug industry in the ongoing negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), continues to push for measures that would significantly constrain affordable access to life-saving drugs, according to a document released October 16 by WikiLeaks.

Health activists said this move threatens access to affordable cancer treatments, particularly in developing countries like Vietnam, where the average person earns less than $15 a day.

“One of the most frightening revelations in the text is a proposal to monopolize new cancer treatments for up to 12 years, which would price many people out of access,” Peter Maybarduk, director of US-based Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines program, told Thanh Nien News.

“It’s an unfortunate and deadly capitulation to the pharmaceutical giants,” Maybarduk said.

According to what WikiLeaks said in May 2014 was the latest draft text of the intellectual property chapter of the TPP, the US Trade Representative proposed a long automatic monopoly period (marketing exclusivity) for biologic drugs, which are the latest and most effective treatments for cancer, health activists said after reviewing the leaked document.

“The text reveals that the US is still insisting upon extension of data exclusivity for 8-12 years on biologic drugs,” Patricia Ranald, coordinator of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, said.

“Pharmaceutical companies already have the right to charge monopoly prices on patented medicines for 20 years, so this will delay cheaper generic versions of these medicines for even longer.”

According to another Wikileaks document leaked in November 2013, a raft of US-proposed provisions would extend and strengthen existing monopolies on medicines, and restrict the ability of governments to exercise safeguards and flexibilities to protect public health and ensure affordable drug prices, the activists said.

They would also delay market entry of generic equivalents of patented medicines, which would raise the cost of medicines and thereby increase private and public spending on them.

According to the leaked text, the US is also pushing for 20-year patent protection in certain areas related to public health such as therapeutic, surgical, and diagnostic methods, which are not provided under World Trade Organization rules.

Health activists said making the regional intellectual property rules tougher could prevent other countries like India, which is not part of the TPP negotiations, from continuing as a generic supplier to low- and middle-income countries.

Such provisions have pitted the US against most of the other negotiating countries, except for its closest allies, the leaked document showed.

When the intellectual property chapter was first leaked in November of last year, it showed that Australia closely aligned with the US throughout the text. But according to the May 2014 document, the US has got, in a move that comes as no surprise, a different closest ally: Japan.

“Multinationals are pulling the strings for almost all legislation in the US and Big Pharma has perhaps the most control,” Dennis McCornac, a professor of economics at Loyola University in Baltimore (Maryland), said.

“Japan also has a developed and important pharmaceutical industry which will also benefit from the TPP proposals,” McCornac said.

“I know Japan will fight against the US if Japan would get hurt, but the government in Japan is now very conservative and aligns with the multinationals and want to be on good terms with the US as the US is a good ally against China.”

Patients wait for health check at the Tumor Hospital, a major cancer treatment facility in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Thanh Tung

Patients wait for health check at the Tumor Hospital, a major cancer treatment facility in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Thanh Tung


 Cancer concerns

Many in the pro-TPP camp see the pact as key to ensuring the US will continue to write the rules for trade in the Asia-Pacific region and stay central to the global economy at a time when many are organizing their manufacturing, agriculture, and service sectors around China.

Its proponents say the TPP would create a free-trade zone from Australia to Peru with $28 trillion in economic output, or 39 percent of the global total, according to a recent Bloomberg report. The countries in the pact are the US, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

But the TPP comes at a bad time since Vietnam is struggling to deal with rising cases of cancer among its population of 90 million.

At a conference on October 18, health experts said the number of patients contracting certain types of cancers have doubled or even quadrupled over the past decade. Cancer patients are also getting increasingly younger, they added.

Vietnam records around 150,000 new cases of cancer annually, more than half of them fatal, according to figures released by the World Health Organization. At least 50 percent fail to seek timely treatment, many simply because they cannot afford it.

But Nguyen Chan Hung, a prominent doctor who chairs the Vietnam Cancer Society, disputed the WHO figures on cancer cases in Vietnam.

“According to my calculation, there are up to 85,000 cancer-caused fatalities every year in Vietnam,” Hung told Thanh Nien News.

India-ed out of the job

To make matters worse, health activists say the US government and its Big Pharma continue to put relentless pressure on access to affordable measures outside of the TPP negotiations.

India, considered the “pharmacy of the developing world”, has amended its patent laws to dovetail with WTO provisions, but has taken advantage of flexibilities within the WTO framework to protect its domestic generic drug industry and keep drug prices low for its people, many of whom continue to live in poverty, according to an article in October by Truthout, a nonprofit that provides news and commentary on a daily basis.

The article revealed this month that aggressive lobbying by pharmaceutical interests pushed the US Congress and White House into mounting pressure on India to change its patent laws.

In just the last two years the US has twice placed India on its Special 301 priority watch list for not meeting US intellectual property (IP) standards. The US Congress has also ordered two successful inquiries against India at the US International Trade Commission.

The White House has also exerted direct pressure, sending Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden to India to seek modification of its IP regime and also setting up a US-India IP working group that “put the US fox in the India chicken coop,” according to Brook Baker, an expert at the US-based Health Global Access Project (GAP).

“Since India is a major exporter of generic medicines of assured quality, including for HIV/AIDS where it supplies 90 percent of the global supply in low- and middle-income countries, attacks on India are attacks on patients in other countries,” Baker said.

The latest push from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), an influential drug industry lobbying group, and its allies came in late September, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his first visit to the US to meet with President Obama and prominent business leaders, according to Truthout.

It is unclear if mounting pressure from the US is having an impact on Modi, who, as PhRMA is quick to point out, has declared India “open for business”, the Truthout article said.

But Modi was quoted by India’s Economic Times as saying: “I understand that you want to be compensated for your investments in [research and development]. At the same time, India needs medicines that are affordable for its population.”

The US Trade Representative has maintained there is a need for tough patent standards to “incentivize” drug companies to keep innovating.

Unsurprisingly, US pharmaceutical giants back this view, saying the American patent regime fosters useful medical innovation.

“As all of us around the world face the persistent problems of disease, poverty, natural disaster, and other challenges, we all need India and it’s 1.3 billion people to fully develop their latent capacity for innovation – and not only India, but Vietnam, too,” Patrick Kilbride, executive director for International IP Policy at the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center, said.

But activists rejected this, holding up plenty of data that suggest otherwise.

“There is growing evidence the US IP-based incentive system for pharmaceutical innovation is broken. Fewer truly new and therapeutically important medicines are being invented as drug companies instead try to game the patent system to extend patent monopolies on existing medicines,” Baker said.

A 2008 research paper titled “The Cost of Pushing Pills: A New Estimate of Pharmaceutical Promotion Expenditures in the United States” confirmed that pharmaceuticals spend about twice as much money marketing their drugs as they do on researching and developing them.

Much of the research pharmaceutical companies do is simply not relevant to public health concerns, a Huffington Post report said in 2011. Money pours into research to reverse hair loss, for instance, while funding for diseases that mainly affect the poor, like tuberculosis, is in perpetual short supply, it said scathingly.

Pharmaceutical insiders bristle at such allegations.

“Critics will continue to say what they want, but the fact is most of the research and development for new medicines is completed by pharmaceutical companies,” Mark Grayson, a PhRMA spokesman, said.

“If you wish to have new medicines you need to have an environment that recognizes the importance of innovation,” he said.

‘Irresponsible public policy’

Some of the more controversial issues related to access to medicines await higher-level discussions this month.

TPP negotiators have sat down again in Australia since October 19 with a ministerial-level meeting following on October 25-27. US President Barack Obama seeks a final announcement on the TPP on November 11, when he will be with other TPP country heads of state in China at a regional summit.

Though Vietnam has objected to the US demands on medicine prices, by and large ranking Vietnamese officials in Hanoi have expressed high hopes for the TPP, which some believe will provide leverage against China’s outsized economic influence.

“The government has continued to push for negotiations on both multilateral and bilateral free trade agreements,” Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told the National Assembly, Vietnam’s legislature, at its opening session Monday.

At a meeting with US Trade Representative Michael Froman in Hanoi Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh also exhibited Vietnam’s determination to conclude the pact successfully.

In Vietnam, claims of the TPP’s benefits have overshadowed its negative ramifications though the texts and contents of the pact remain shrouded in secrecy.

People in Vietnam and Tunisia — 95 percent — had the most positive view of the benefits of growing trade among 44 countries covered by a recent poll by the Pew Research Center. On the contrary, citizens in two countries participating in the TPP negotiations show little enthusiasm for it: the US, the world’s second-biggest trading country, was fourth from last and Japan, eighth.

Truong Dinh Tuyen, a former trade minister who has advised the government on negotiations for entry into the WTO and now the TPP, has showed up to a number of economic forums trying to sell the benefits of joining the TPP, saying it would play a crucial role in restructuring the economy.

But he declined to speak to Thanh Nien News over phone.

“Don’t waste your time calling me again,” he said before hanging up brusquely.

Even Hung, the leading Vietnamese cancer expert, declined to comment about medicine prices under the TPP, citing “lack of information” about the issue.

The activists said that at the end of the day of all the TPP negotiating countries Vietnam has the lowest per capita income and thus faces the greatest development challenges. Oxfam, an international anti-poverty group, said thousands more Vietnamese could be pushed into poverty since they would have to choose between medicines and other basic necessities.

“Although Vietnam is developing rapidly, its economic development is primarily benefiting elites and select sectors,” GAP’s Baker said.

“Adopting heightened intellectual property burdens to gain temporary, short-term trade advantages for certain selectors is irresponsible public policy and goes against social solidarity for current and future generations.”

Source: Thanh Nien News

Link to article

BONUS:  Press Release – Updated Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) – IP Chapter (second publication) (on 2014-10-16)

Below is an excerpt from a Wikileaks document mention in the article.  Click here to read the press release and scroll to the bottom to find the link that will take you to the full secret TPP treaty IP Chapter from May 2014. 

WikiLeaks_TPP_IP2_cartoonThe 77-page, 30,000-word document is a working document from the negotiations in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, dated 16 May 2014, and includes negotiator’s notes and all country positions from that period in bracketed text. Although there have been a couple of additional rounds of talks since this text, little has changed in them and it is clear that the negotiations are stalling and that the issues raised in this document will be very much on the table in Australia this month.

The last time the public got access to the TPP IP Chapter draft text was in November 2013 when WikiLeaks published the 30 August 2013 bracketed text. Since that point, some controversial and damaging areas have had little change; issues surrounding digital rights have moved little. However, there are significant industry-favouring additions within the areas of pharmaceuticals and patents. These additions are likely to affect access to important medicines such as cancer drugs and will also weaken the requirements needed to patent genes in plants, which will impact small farmers and boost the dominance of large agricultural corporations like Monsanto.

Not All US Higher Education Fairs Are Created Equal: Part II

Posted 24/10/2014 by maavn
Categories: Commentary, Events

Tags: , , , , ,
Only regionally accredited colleges and universities are allowed to participate in Capstone StudyUSA Higher Education Fairs.

Only regionally accredited colleges and universities such as Carroll University (WI) are allowed to participate in Capstone Vietnam’s StudyUSA Higher Education Fairs.

Truth in advertising:  A fairly legal definition is advertisements that do not make misleading, false, or deceptive claims.  So let’s say Wonderful Educational Consulting  Company is organizing a US higher education fair series and they state in their publicity that only regionally accredited (RA) colleges and universities are permitted to join.  Wouldn’t you logically expect to see only RA institutions represented?

In fact, there are some companies and organizations that make this claim and then do the old bait-and-switch by including nationally accredited (NA) schools.  Why?  In the case of the latter because someone most likely dropped the ball and in the case of the former because money trumps quality.  They say it because it sounds good and they think it’s what US colleagues want to hear but the bottom line is, quite literally, profit.

NA schools are what I like to refer to as the distant cousins of their RA counterparts.  There is no comparison in terms of quality and recognition of credits and degrees.  In fact, most RA schools will not accept transfer credit or degrees from NA schools.  That decision pretty much says it all.

The company I work for, Capstone Vietnam, is probably the only educational consulting company in Vietnam that works exclusively with RA schools in the US.  (If you know of another, dear reader, let me know and I’ll post the comment and proof here.)  Why?  It’s simple – quality matters.

So does truth in advertising.  Bait-and-switch is yet another example of fraud perpetrated on attendees and other institutions.


The Audacity of Monsanto & the Short Memory of the Vietnam National University of Agriculture

Posted 22/10/2014 by maavn
Categories: Commentary

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Note:  This is obviously NOT a post about education.  Given the relative freedom of speech that this blog has afforded me since I left the employ of a quasi-US governmental nonprofit five years ago, I reserve to right to explore other important issues related to Vietnam, including the war legacy of Agent Orange and the issue of food sovereignty as it relates to genetically modified crops.

Below is a guest post by Chuck Palazzo, an American war veteran and Agent Orange and Unexploded Ordnance activist and researcher, who is currently living, writing and working in Danang.  Consider this rather lengthy introduction an opportunity to add my two cents, echoing some of the points Chuck makes.

A 13 October 2014 post on Monsanto’s blog Beyond the Rows, entitled Monsanto and Vietnam University of Agriculture Collaborate to Develop Talents in Agricultural Biotechnology, announced a new VND 1.5 billion scholarship program “for outstanding students studying agricultural biotechnology. This scholarship aims to nurture and encourage the engagement of young talents in the development of agricultural biotechnology and products thereof to support farmers.”  How noble but I wish the source of funding weren’t an entity that was once voted the Most Evil Corporation of the Year and which happens to have an unsavory “Vietnam connection.”  Audacity (the Yiddish word “chutzpah” also comes to mind) is the correct word to describe this charm offensive.

[I once advised a well-known student organization that they should be careful who they take money from in the form of corporate sponsorship.  One example was an organization that promotes the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco-related products.  The moral of the story is choose carefully and ethically, when it comes to sponsorship.]

At first glance, I had a visceral reaction to the obscene symbolic and practical significance of  this scholarship program, sponsored by Monsanto, one of the companies that gave the world – and profited handsomely from – Agent Orange  (AO) and is now reaping huge profits from highly controversial genetically modified (GM) crops.  For a paltry $70,000, rounded down, they have bought their way into the Vietnam University of Agriculture and the country’s media, a wolf in sheep’s clothing – in more than one media reference – with a Trojan horse approach to improving the bottom line, so to speak.

Keeping in mind that Monsanto’s 2013 revenue was nearly $15 billion, I wonder what the ROI will be on that 70k?  Monsanto execs must be smiling like a Cheshire cat at how easy it is to buy access and influence in a country that was once on the receiving end of one of its most infamous products, a country that continues to pay a steep price in environmental degradation and human suffering, as do US war veterans and others exposed to AO.

If the world were just, Monsanto is one of a number of multinational companies of US origin that would be forced to compensate the millions of victims – here, in the US and elsewhere – for the multi-generational effects of one of their marquee products, Agent Orange, rather than being given the opportunity to (once again) profit from Vietnam.   If they want to curry favor with the public here and massage global public opinion, why not establish a multimillion dollar grant program for AO victims, all four generations of them?  No need to accept any responsibility, just make the lives of these people more bearable, less painful, more livable.  Just do the right thing.

Monsanto has two offices in Vietnam.  Note:  Dekalb is a Monsanto subsidiary.

Unit 1303, Floor 13, Centec Tower
72-74 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street
Ward 6, District 3
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Phone: (84-8) 3823 3470 -76
Fax: (84-8) 3823 3473 – 3823 3469

10th Floor, 442 Doi Can Street
Cong Vi Ward, Ba Dinh District,
Ha Noi City, Vietnam
Phone: (84-4) 3762 1146
Fax: (84-4) 3762 1149


The Audacity of Monsanto and the Short Memory of the Vietnam National University of Agriculture

by Chuck Palazzo

 In a recent article, Monsanto and the Vietnam University of Agriculture announced:

“…a pledge of VND 1.5 billion scholarship for outstanding students studying agricultural biotechnology. This scholarship aims to nurture and encourage the engagement of young talents in the development of agricultural biotechnology and products thereof to support farmers.”

As I read this, several ethical questions immediately came to mind. Could it possibly be that the same Monsanto that manufactured one of the most disastrous herbicides in history, Agent Orange, has been allowed to resurface in Vietnam in the guise of agriculture? To be more precise – GMO – Genetically Modified Organisms and Seeds?  That is exactly what has occurred.  According to various estimates, the U.S. military sprayed approximately 11 to 12 million gallons of Agent Orange over nearly 10% of then-South Vietnam between 1961 and 1971. One scientific study estimated that between 2.1 million and 4.8 million Vietnamese were directly exposed to Agent Orange. Vietnamese advocacy groups claim that there are over 3 million Vietnamese suffering from health problems caused by exposure to the dioxin in Agent Orange.

Yes, the same Monsanto which, according to their own website, states: “At the time the herbicides were used, there was little consideration within the U.S. military about potential long-term environmental and health effects of the widespread use of Agent Orange in Vietnam.  As a result, the governments that were involved most often take responsibility for resolving any consequences of the Vietnam War, including any relating to the use of Agent Orange. U.S. courts have determined that wartime contractors (such as the former Monsanto) who produced Agent Orange for the government are not responsible for damage claims associated with the chemistry.”

OK, Monsanto, agreed that you were and continue to be complicit with the US Government. OK, it’s convenient for Monsanto and the other manufacturers of Agent Orange to hide behind the US courts. But is it OK for this same Monsanto, which lied to the public about the deadly effects of Agent Orange, be allowed to return to Vietnam under the guise of improving agriculture? Is it OK for this same company that has been responsible for some of the worst chemical concoctions known to man (PCBs is another example) are now held in such high esteem that the Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture awards them The Sustainable Agriculture Company Award? Sustainability? GMO’s do not contribute to the sustainability of agriculture or anything else for that matter. To make matters worse, some of the same components used in Agent Orange are also being genetically implanted into GMO seeds – for human consumption. Other GMO seeds have been developed to withstand mega-doses of herbicides without killing the crop itself – albeit, the chemicals will saturate and ultimately destroy the surrounding environment. This is clearly NOT sustainability.

Nguyen Hong Loi and child born without eyes in Agent Orange children's ward at Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Nguyen Hong Loi, 24, cares for a child born without eyes in the Agent Orange children’s ward of Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. About 500 of the 60,000 children delivered each year at the maternity hospital, Vietnam’s largest, are born with deformities, some because of Agent Orange, according to doctors. May 1, 2013. Photo: Drew Brown (

Monsanto has not compensated any victim of Agent Orange in Vietnam, the US, or anywhere around the world for the death and destruction this corporate giant has been responsible for over the years. They refuse to. They hide behind US laws, which, in my opinion are a disgrace, as evidenced by my own fellow American veterans who continue to die as a result of their own exposure to Agent Orange and the countless Vietnamese victims who I see and advocate for daily, many of whom are 2nd and 3rd generation victims.

Monsanto is an incredibly large, multinational company that has the financial capability to do as they please – in the US, in Vietnam and throughout the world. GMO’s do not resolve the world hunger problems; they do not resolve drought-related issues. Poor farmers around the world enter into contracts with Monsanto that ensure the seeds they use are destroyed at the end of each season – forcing the farmer to continue to buy seeds from Monsanto. Yep, control the food and you will control the people.

What about food sovereignty? There is none as long as Monsanto is part of the agricultural food chain in Vietnam and anywhere their seeds are being used.

Sure, let us recognize talent in our universities and grant awards and scholarships based on academic achievement.   But not by using the blood money Monsanto has granted to the Ministry of Agriculture, paid in part by profits earned from the Agent Orange they manufactured and sold to the U.S. Government during the American War. The same Vietnam that was saturated with Agent Orange. The same Vietnam whose victims of Agent Orange who, now very well into the 3rd generation, continue to suffer and die, for very likely, many more years to come.

Not All US Higher Education Fairs Are Created Equal: Part I

Posted 19/10/2014 by maavn
Categories: Commentary, Events

Tags: , , , ,
A Capstone StudyUSA Higher Education Fairs, at which nearly 100% of the representatives are from the home institutions.

A Capstone StudyUSA Higher Education Fair, at which the overwhelming majority of representatives are from the participating institutions.

What’s in a name?  When parents and students make the decision to attend a US higher education fair, what are their expectations regarding who will be sitting behind the nicely decorated tables?

  1. To enter the ballroom and see a group of mostly student volunteers representing US institutions of higher education; or.
  2. To have the opportunity to meet with official representatives of  US colleges and universities.


Color me transparent but companies that organize and advertise fairs at which educational institutions are represented mostly by local student volunteers are cheating students, parents and other members of the public who come seeking accurate and detailed information from bona fide representatives of the home institutions.  Even though higher education fairs are free and open to the public, attendees not getting what they paid for in terms of time and effort expended to travel to the hotels that host these events if they only have the opportunity to meet with mostly Vietnamese student volunteers.

Of Dog & Pony Shows

The companies that put on these dog and pony shows are some of the same ones that bus students to fairs to artificially inflate attendance, hire companies to pay “students” to attend the fair, buy “likes’ for their Facebook fanpages rather than growing them organically, try to inflate the number of upvotes on its YouTube videos (without realizing that Google has technology to monitor viewer activity and prevent this type of fraud – just Google “YouTube” and “301+” to learn more), use the names of well-known companies in Google AdWords in a lame attempt to drive traffic to their websites,  etc.  It’s all smoke and mirrors, a disturbing pattern of deception.

Only those foreign higher education fairs that have at least, say, 75% foreign representatives should be permitted to use the name.  Others should be forced to explain the truth about their faux fairs, including a disclaimer on their website and in all advertising.  (A guy can dream, can’t he?)  Anything less is fraud perpetrated on unsuspecting students and parents.




Workshop on Higher Education Admission Reform in Vietnam

Posted 10/10/2014 by maavn
Categories: Conferences

Tags: , , ,

On Saturday, 27 September, I participated in a workshop on the reform of Vietnam’s higher education admission system hosted by Vietnam National University-Hanoi.  The workshop, which was led by VNU-Hanoi President Phùng Xuân Nhạ and Vice President Nguyễn Kim Sơn, received extensive print and electronic media coverage.  For those of you who read Vietnamese, here is a sampling of articles:

Nhiều trường ĐH sẵn sàng tham gia phương án đổi mới TS của ĐHQGHN (VNU-Hanoi)

Hội thảo về đổi mới tuyển sinh đại học, sau đại học theo hướng đánh giá năng lực (Quân đội nhân dân)

Nhiều trường “tốp trên” sẽ thực hiện phương án thi đánh giá năng lực (Dân trí)

Các chuyên gia nói gì về phương án thi đại học 2015 của ĐHQG Hà Nội?  (Infonet)

Đổi mới tuyển sinh ĐH theo hướng đánh giá năng lực (Pháp Luật thành phố Hồ Chí Minh)

GS Bành Tiến Long và TS Mark (thứ nhất và thứ 2 từ phải sang) đánh giá cao phương án đổi mới thi bằng bài thi đánh giá năng lực của ĐHQG Hà Nội. Ảnh: Bùi Tuấn. (Source:

GS Bành Tiến Long và TS Mark (thứ nhất và thứ 2 từ phải sang) đánh giá cao phương án đổi mới thi bằng bài thi đánh giá năng lực của ĐHQG Hà Nội. Ảnh: Bùi Tuấn. (Source:

  (Ảnh) Một số hình ảnh Hội thảo “Đổi mới tuyển sinh đại học, sau đại học theo hướng đánh giá năng lực: thực tiễn triển khai thí điểm ở ĐHQHN” (Photos from VNU-Hanoi)



The Geography of Foreign Students in U.S. Higher Education: Origins and Destinations

Posted 23/09/2014 by maavn
Categories: Commentary, Reports

Tags: , , , ,

Below is an excerpt from a 10 September 2014 ICEF Monitor article about an excellent Brookings Institution study of international student flows to the U.S. with detailed information and useful analyses.  Start with the article and, when you have time, print off and read the entire report.  I’ll be back soon with an analysis of Vietnamese students, including sending and destination cities and popular fields of study.


A new study by the Brookings Institute, The geography of foreign students in US higher education, goes beyond collecting data on international students in America to offer fascinating insights on:

  • The metropolitan centres international students are choosing to study in – and often, to stay in to work after graduation;
  • The international cities sending the most students to the US.

In this article we’ll explore some of the most important findings from this interesting new take on US student data.

Steady growth in international student numbers

quick note on the methodology of the report: the primary data source was US Immigration and Customs Enforcement I-20 forms from 2001–2012, in particular the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS – PDF) data submitted by US schools with foreign students enrolled under F-1 visas. The Brookings Institute then filtered the sample to include only:

  • F-1 international students in bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral programmes;
  • F-1 international students in metropolitan and global cities with “at least 1,500 F-1 visa approvals over the 2008 to 2012 period”, which yielded “a final list of 118 US high F-1 visa metropolitan areas and 94 global high F-1 source cities and hometowns.”

Given these restrictions, the Brookings report counts 524,000 international students in the US in 2012, versus SEVIS’s 2012 total of 858,180 F-1 and M-1 students in the US for that year. (SEVIS is now reporting 966,333 F-1 and M-1 students studying in the US as of July 2014.)

The main point for the purposes of this article is that the Brookings report and the overall SEVIS data show notable growth in international student numbers in the US. According to the Brookings methodology:

“The number of foreign students on F-1 visas in US colleges and universities grew dramatically from 110,000 in 2001 to 524,000 in 2012.”

The report notes that the biggest increases come from sending countries considered “emerging markets,” such as China and Saudi Arabia.

Why the focus on metropolitan centres and sending cities is interesting

s much as has been written about the cultural and economic benefits of international students for host universities and local communities, there is much room for discussion on the wider implications of hosting international students. In short, international students can provide long-term links to the key global regions from which they originate, whether these links are research-oriented, diplomatic, or economic.

The Brookings Institute notes the following areas of potential impact:

  • International students can be “valuable assets to local business communities that are seeking to expand globally.” They cite the IT sector, where “immigrant entrepreneur networks play a critical role in technology industries’ international expansion, linking Silicon Valley to new technology hubs in Bangalore (India), Hsinchu Science Park (Taiwan), and Shanghai (China).
  • “Migrants can increase the availability of valuable market information for exporters from origin-and destination-countries, find buyers, learn about regulatory requirements and overcome market imperfections.”
  • International students, if successfully attracted and retained post-graduation, can allow the US to “tap powerful diaspora networks around the globe.”

Those American cities with significant numbers of international students are the best placed to enjoy such benefits – particularly when the cities also contain exciting work opportunities for foreign graduates. A key consideration here is the limited extent (currently) to which US immigration laws allow talented international students to remain in the country to work post-graduation.

Where Students Go

The Brookings Institute found that from 2008 to 2012, “85% of foreign students pursuing a bachelor’s degree or above attended colleges and universities in 118 metro areas that collectively accounted for 73% of US higher education students.”

Some metropolitan areas command very significant proportions of that 85%:

“The New York metropolitan area had by far the highest number of F-1 visa approvals: more than 100,000 over the 2008-2012 period, accounting for more than 8% of national F-1 approvals. Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington made up the remaining top five metro areas, each with between 35,000 and 70,000 F-1 visa approvals. The 10 metro areas with the most F-1 visa approvals together accounted for 36% of all approvals; these metro areas also represent some of the largest by population.”


Map: 118 U.S. Metro Areas with at Least 1,500 Foreign Students, 2008–2012

Map: 118 U.S. Metro Areas with at Least 1,500 Foreign Students, 2008–2012


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