01 novembre 2012

Did MOOCs Just Make Landfall? 10 Questions to Consider

By Dayna Catropa and Margaret Andrews. It seems we may have another big, unpredictable storm close to home – MOOCs. Earlier this week Inside Higher Ed announced a partnership between Coursera and Antioch University to license Coursera courses for Antioch degree programs.
In short, here’s the business model:  Universities such as Duke and the University of Pennsylvania work with Coursera to produce massively open online courses (“MOOCs”) that are offered for free (at least until this point) through Coursera.  Some schools, like Antioch, may decide to license these courses and will pay Coursera a fee to do so.  Coursera will share the gross revenue and net profit from these licensed courses with the universities that produced the content.  The faculty that produced the course will also receive some revenue.  Schools like Antioch will offer these licensed MOOCs to their students, thus giving them access to a wider array of courses and instructors, including “rock star” faculty from well-known universities.  Because the cost of licensing the content through Coursera will likely be smaller than the cost of hiring these well-known faculty to teach at the licensee school, universities like Antioch that work through Coursera can pass the savings on to students, thus lowering the cost of a degree. More...

Posté par pcassuto à 15:15 - - Permalien [#]

Fulbright Tries Out Short-Term Fellowships

The Chronicle of Higher EducationBy Ian Wilhelm. After more than 60 years of sending American scholars overseas, the U.S. State Department's Fulbright International Educational Exchange Program is getting a tune-up. To better accommodate the workloads of today's scholars and respond to changes in how research is conducted, the department is experimenting with new types of awards.
The program sends some 1,100 academics outside the United States annually to teach, do research, or serve as advisers to faculty and officials at foreign universities. They are a small but significant portion of the 8,000 Fulbright awards each year, which also support international exchanges of students, artists, elementary and secondary schoolteachers, and other professionals.

Posté par pcassuto à 15:10 - - Permalien [#]

Initiative to improve the student experience goes global

http://enews.ksu.edu.sa/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/UWN.jpgBy Thierry Luescher-Mamashela. Research universities from across the globe met from 8-10 October at the University of California, Berkeley, to discuss a first round of survey data on their students’ undergraduate experience. Institutions from Brazil, Britain, China, The Netherlands, Russia and South Africa have joined the new SERU International Consortium.
SERU, which stands for Student Experience in the Research University, is a survey tool designed to collect data on the academic and civic engagement of undergraduate students at research universities in the United States. The survey has gone global and the Berkeley meeting was attended by members of the SERU International Consortium including the University of Campinas in São Paolo, Brazil; University of Cape Town, South Africa; University of Bristol, UK; Amsterdam University College in The Netherlands; National Research University – Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Russia; and China’s universities of Hunan, Nanjing and Xi'an JiaoTong.
Observers were also present from Oxford University, the universities of Rhodes, the Western Cape and Johannesburg in South Africa, the University of New South Wales in Australia and member institutions of the American Association of Universities.

Posté par pcassuto à 14:51 - - Permalien [#]

OECD, Boston College explore role of research universities

http://enews.ksu.edu.sa/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/UWN.jpgBy David Stanfield and Daniel Lincoln. In a groundbreaking partnership with Boston College’s Center for International Higher Education, the OECD recently hosted an international working conference under the aegis of its new Innovation, Higher Education and Research for Development (IHERD) programme.
The conference examined the role of research universities in global knowledge networks, and was opened by Åsa Olsson, IHERD coordinator, and Philip Altbach, director of the Center for International Higher Education, or CIHE. Held on the Boston College campus and drawing on the expertise of some 40 guests from around the world, the seminar explored the future prospects of research institutions in developing and middle-income countries.

Posté par pcassuto à 14:44 - - Permalien [#]

After Weak Returns, the Endowment Fund Limits Withdrawals

New York TimesBy JULIE CRESWELL. The sales pitch for the fund was simple: a chance for individual investors to get in on the same high-octane private equity and hedge funds that have fueled successful returns for large university endowments for years. But now investors in the fund, the nine-year-old, $3.3 billion Endowment Fund, are finding it was much easier to get in than it is to get out.
The fund, run by Mark Yusko, the charismatic former chief of the endowment for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, sent letters on Friday to investors saying it was limiting the amount of money that could be taken out each quarter. Investors withdrew more than $1 billion, or about a quarter of the fund’s assets, this year through September, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Investors generally have been disappointed with hedge fund returns for the last couple of years because many have lagged the gains made in the stock market. Investors have pulled about $13.2 billion, or 2 percent of total assets, from hedge funds for the year through August, according to estimates by BarclayHedge and TrimTabs Investment Research. The firms estimate that in the 3,000 hedge funds that they track, assets have fallen 28.7 percent from their peak of $2.4 trillion in 2008 through a combination of weak performance and withdrawals.
But hedge fund investors and lawyers said the move by the Endowment Fund was one of the first forms of gating, or reducing the ability of investors to take out their money, since the financial crisis. Then, several large hedge funds gated, angering their investors who could not get access to their money.
The troubles at the Endowment Fund are a black eye for Mr. Yusko, a frequent speaker at investment conferences who, after leaving the University of North Carolina in 2004, built a substantial hedge fund empire that at its peak in 2008 controlled $22 billion in assets. Today, he oversees $14 billion.
Mr. Yusko declined to comment on Monday.
He started the Endowment Fund in 2003 with Salient Partners, a Houston firm that managed money for wealthy individuals. It is a fund that invests in dozens of other funds, including some run by prominent managers who have stumbled in recent years, like John A. Paulson, Philip A. Falcone and Eric Mindich.
Several experts were quick to say they saw the gating at the Endowment Fund as a reflection of what that fund had invested in, not as a general trend among funds. About 35 percent of the fund’s assets are invested in real estate, energy and private equity assets — investments that the fund simply could not exit quickly if investors were to demand their cash.
The substantial redemptions in the Endowment Fund follow several years of weak returns. For the 12 months ending late August, the fund was down 2.5 percent, compared with an 18 percent gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index and a 0.9 percent decline in the average hedge fund. Over the last five years, the Endowment Fund returned 5.7 percent annually, lagging the 7.7 percent gain by the S.&. P. 500 and the 7.3 percent annual gain by the average hedge fund.
“Hedge funds, as an asset class, have underperformed the stock market and there are definitely some investors out there who feel like they haven’t been invited to the party,” said Stewart Massey, a partner at Massey Quick in Morristown, N.J., which invests money for individuals and institutions.
But the fees investors have paid the Endowment Fund for its lukewarm performance have been considerable, up to about 3.5 percent a year. Additionally, the underlying funds can receive as much as 25 percent of any profits they make.
On top of that, some of the fund’s investors who came in through Merrill Lynch financial advisers may have paid as much as a 2.5 percent upfront fee, similar to what is charged for other funds, according to internal Merrill Lynch documents. More...

Posté par pcassuto à 14:38 - - Permalien [#]

Canada not “top-of-mind” destination for international students

iPoliticsBy Michelle Zilio. A government program aimed at attracting international students to Canada is failing to do so, according to a recent report from Ipsos Reid.
The report, presented to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in March and recently made public, surveyed prospective students, parents and university educational advisors in Brazil, China and India to gather feedback for the development of Edu-Canada’s “Imagine Education in Canada” brand. The report found that, aside from Brazilian participants interested in language studies and one Brazilian education advisor, “Canada is not a top-of-mind destination for foreign study for participants of any of the three countries.”
“Imagine Education in Canada”, launched by DFAIT and the Council of Ministers of Education Canada in 2008, aims to brand Canada as a top study destination for international students. The program, in its fourth year, was allocated $1 million a year for five years.
The report found that participants were unaware of Canada’s “world-class educational establishments,” apart from a few mentions of the University of Toronto.
“While participants believe that Canada as a developed country must have an adequate level of education, there is no perception of a Canadian education advantage compared to others,” the report read.
Participants expressed a preference for educational institutions in the U.K. and the U.S., citing their prestigious reputations and high placement in world university rankings.
“Given that the presence of world-class educational establishments is the leading factor that drives the choice of a foreign destination for education, this lack of prominence is a serious obstacle,” the report states.
A number of top Canadian universities took a hit to their reputation at the beginning of October when the annual Times Higher Education World University Ranking was released. The University of Toronto dropped out of the top 20 this year, from number 19 to 21, while the University of British Columbia plummeted from number 22 to 30, and McGill fell out of the top 30 to 34th place worldwide. Four years after its launch, says the report, the “Imagine Education in/au Canada” still lacks a specific national brand — unlike Canada’s competitors. Participants said the Canadian brand lacked details about university rankings, top programs, famous or successful people with Canadian credentials, and Canadian institutions in scientific publications or the media.
“The absence of a clear national brand, which is present among Canada’s competitors, leaves participants wondering who the sponsor of the communications is,” the report read.
Statistics Canada data examining the number of international students attending university in Canada show international interest in Canadian institutions has flatlined in recent years. From 1992 to 2003, the overall percentage of international students at Canadian universities jumped nearly three percentage points, from 4.2 to 7.1 per cent. But from 2003 to 2008, that number levelled off, growing by less than half of a percentage point over six years. Canada’s international reputation as a leading study destination can be improved, according to the report.
The report called for a number of improvements in the marketing and advertising of Canada as a study destination: increased advertising for Canada’s advanced scientific research, adding English and French support for international students who wish to learn either language, using successful Canadian personalities in marketing, and pursuing a more aggressive outreach to prospective students through social media networks.
The report also said practical information such as the availability of cultural activities, quality of living and Canada’s natural beauty should be made available to prospective international students.
twitter.com/michellezilio, michellezilio@ipolitics.ca

Posté par pcassuto à 14:34 - - Permalien [#]

Why we need the world's best

Subscribe to The Gazette and stay connected your wayBy HEATHER MUNROE-BLUM. Let me explode the myths about international students. They enrich Quebec, and we have to get better at attracting them.
The great historian Marcel Trudel liked to talk about the myths and realities of Quebec's history. On my side, I'll talk about the myths and realities of the international role of Quebec's universities - a key role for the success of Quebec.
I'm going to use a question-and-answer format. And, because I'm a professor, I'm going to ask the questions and give the answers!
Myth or reality? International students are a drain on Quebec.

Myth. International students are essential contributors to Quebec's success. We cannot succeed without more well-educated, highly skilled, multilingual people. People who have knowledge and experience of the major cultures of the world; people who are comfortable with managing complexity, and who are welcoming of change.
International students are exactly what Quebec needs. They spend years in our institutions, they speak or are motivated to learn French, they know Quebec's values, and they are already integrating into our society. Collectively, we Quebecers have supported a portion of their education with our taxes, and, collectively, we Quebecers benefit from the investment made elsewhere in their early training and from who they are today. More...

Posté par pcassuto à 14:28 - - Permalien [#]

Hallucinatory realism of open education

China Daily WebsiteBy Berlin Fang. On Oct 18, 2012, Time magazine published an article by Amanda Ripley on the impact of massive open online courses on higher education. It was one of many recent reports on this innovative method of teaching. I first heard of MOOC from the charismatic Curtis Bonk, of Indiana University and author of The World is Open. Bonk goes around the world evangelizing the concept of open education and teaching a MOOC course on instructional design and educational technology.
The movement has grown far beyond Bonk's field of educational technology. Through mega courses, the MOOC movement is making academic superstars out of often obscure professors of physics, statistics, poetry, differential equations or even applied cryptography. Open education is exciting, or even hallucinatory, when reporters create in readers' minds images of a yak herder in Tibet learning poetry from Yale, or an 11-year-old girl in Pakistan learning introductory physics from Stanford.
As tuition fees rise, such alternatives to traditional education are tempting. Teachers also get excited about such teaching methods. But some harsh realities loom over open education enthusiasts. Even in the United States, open education is not an open range without fences. Online course provider Coursera changed its terms of service to restrict students from Minnesota because a law of that US state seems to pose legal risks to it. Innovative offerings do not necessarily cannibalize earlier ones in their entirety. While online or hybrid courses enter the mainstream, they have not replaced traditional educational offerings. Multimodal education is going to be the new norm for colleges and universities in many parts of the world.
No innovative medium of education carries an innate advantage in producing the desired educational outcome. Each innovative method must eventually compete in terms of quality and cost. China's open university experiment may be a great example for the world to study as technology-driven educational innovations unfold. Before the Internet, in 1979 to be precise, China created a massive "Broadcasting and Television University" system. As the original name suggests, the system depends on the use of radio and television to deliver lessons to people. One would assume that it must have gone out of business in this age of the Internet. But it is still alive and well. Now renamed the Open University of China, it has a vast network which includes the Central Open University in Beijing, 44 provincial open universities and 46,724 "teaching stations" across the country, according to the OUC website.
I asked the editor of Open Education Research, Wei Zhihui, what OUC can offer to the rest of the world. Despite Wei's humble stance that her journal focuses more on sharing cases of Chinese universities learning from others, the Chinese system does offer something fellow open education researchers and practitioners can learn from. The most impressive thing about the OUC system is its down-to-earth pragmatism. OUC does not make wide claims about how cutting-edge it is, or how it is going to change the world. It focuses more on figuring out where it may work and where it may not.
It does not compete head-on with the elite universities. Instead, it keeps looking for its own market niches: students from economically depressed areas, faraway places underserved by traditional universities, rural students, or employees seeking continuing education. In Shanghai, for instance, the Open University focuses on community needs. The system also embraces new methods of teaching as technologies evolve. These and many other pragmatic approaches have secured OUC a foothold in the market, even though it has lost its initial technological advantage and large pool of students. I am under the impression that MOOC advocates focus excessively on how large their virtual classes are and how faraway their students can be. Eventually, students come to institutions that exhibit strength, not size. Instead of sensational reports on educational revolutions and re-inventions, the industry might consider the more humble approaches of OUC. Like people, part of being a smart institution is knowing what you cannot do. The author is a US-based instructional designer, literary translator and columnist writing on cross-cultural issues.

Posté par pcassuto à 14:26 - - Permalien [#]

Russia, China, Iran close ranks in Tajikistan

Pravda.ruBy Olivia Kroth. The Republic of Tajikistan, a comparatively small country with a size of 143.000 square kilometers, plays a pivotal role in Central Asia, just like its neighbours, Afghanistan to the south, Uzbekistan to the west and Kyrgyzstan in the north. The population of this landlocked, mountainous republic is 80 percent Tajik, the rest either Uzbek, Kyrgyz or Russian. Tajik is spoken as the official language, but Russian is widely understood and used as well. Russia, China and Iran are close neighbours and allies for Tajikistan. All three powers have a vested interest in keeping on good terms with the government in Dushanbe, Tajikistan's capital, and Emomali Rahmon, who became President in 2004.
Furthermore, all three allies show great interest in keeping western meddlers and peddlers out. The meddling in internal affairs of Central Asian countries and the peddling of "democracy," western style, is not welcome, according to the motto "Asia for Asians."
Russia probably has the closest ties to Tajikistan, a former Soviet Republic from 1924 to 1990. When the Soviet Union dissolved, Tajikistan's newly gained independence encouraged China and Iran to seek closer ties with the small country as well. In spite of its relative poverty, Tajikistan boasts a high rate of literacy, due to the Soviet free system of education. Almost 100 percent of the 7.5 million inhabitants have the ability of reading and writing, mostly in two languages, Tajik and Russian. The Russian Federation is taking great pains to augment Russian language schools on Tajik territory as part of its efforts to recover the post-Soviet space.
At the beginning of October 2012, President Vladimir Putin flew to Dushanbe for an official visit and wrapped up the deal to prolong the lease for the Russian military base in Tajikistan for another 30 years, until 2042.
His talks with Emomali Rahmon proved to be highly successful. Vladimir Putin came home to Moscow with the "trophy from the Pamirs," as the Indian analyst, M.K. Bhadrakumar, attested in the Russia & India Report. "It becomes an extraordinary occasion to celebrate life. Russian President Vladimir Putin couldn't have celebrated with happier tidings than these," he wrote.
The new lease will cost Russia practically nothing, as it is part of a package deal, profitable for both sides, a classical "win-win" situation.  Russia agreed to deliver oil products for domestic consumption to Tajikistan without imposing export duties.
In addition, Russia promised to increase the legal and social protection for Tajikistani labour migrants in the Russian Federation, extending the deadlines for registration up to 15 days and the validity of work permits up to three years. Currently, there are 1.3 million Tajikistani citizens working in the Russian Federation. In 2011, they sent home almost three billion USD, about 50 percent of Tajikistan's GDP. 
The package deal also specifies cultural, educational and scientific cooperation. Moscow State University and the National Research and Technology University have already opened branches in Dushanbe, the Moscow Energy Institute will follow soon. Almost 5.000 students from Tajikistan are studying at Russian universities, while the Russian-Tajikistani Slavic University in Dushanbe now has 4.300 students enrolled.
President Vladimir Putin expressed his hope that these numbers would grow, as knowledge of Russian could considerably expand Tajikistan's professional opportunities, especially for young people, helping them to find jobs in the Russian space. Tajikistan's resources consist of hydropower potential and natural gas reserves. The country possesses the highest dam worldwide, Nurak Dam.  Russia has installed the Sangtudin Hydroelectric Power Station, which produces 15 percent of the country's electricity. Gazprom-Zarubezhneftegaz and Gazpromneft-Tajikistan are planning to construct a service station network in the country. Total Russian investment in Tajikistan actually amounts to 1.2 billion USD. In 2011, Russian companies invested 133.6 million USD in the republic of the Pamirs. From 2010 to 2012, fifteen new joint ventures were established. All in all, there are 125 Russian-Tajik joint ventures in different sectors, from construction and retail to producing furniture and textiles.
The key, however, remains the Russian military presence. Russia's bases in Dushanbe, Kulob and Kurgan-Tyube are highly strategic assets, giving Moscow the capacity of influencing the shape of things to come, not only in Tajikistan itself, but in the greater region of Central Asia, too. Having secured the prolongation of the lease for its military base until 2042, Russia emerges as the principal provider of safety in Central Asia, especially after the successful agreement with the Government in Bishkek on the prolongation of the Russian military base in Kyrgyzstan.
First success: Kyrgyzstan. Second success: Tajikistan. Not only did Vladimir Putin sign two now lease contracts for Russian military bases, but he made sure at the same time that no western bases will furthermore exist in these post-Soviet Republics. The western ex-imperialist base in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, will be closed in 2014. In Tajikistan, none will be opened.
The Russian President can be very happy and proud of this feat. "The trophy is all his, although he won it for Russia, since it was all personal diplomacy at the one-on-one level with his counterpart in Dushanbe, Emomali Rahmon," the Indian journalist, M.K. Bhadrakumar, emphasized. Interestingly, both statesmen were born just two days apart, they could almost be twins. Vladimir Putin was born in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) on the 7th of October 1952. Emomali Rahmon was born in Kulob, Kulob Oblast, on the 5th of October 1952.
This is not the only point they have in common, though. Both men studied economics. Vladimir Putin holds a PhD degree from the University of Leningrad (Saint Petersburg) in economics. Emomali Rahmon graduated with a Bachelor's degree in economics from the Tajik State University in Dushanbe. Their background and past experiences are probably similar as well, since both grew up in Soviet times, in the Soviet space, with the best of Soviet work ethos, serving their country with absolute loyalty, great enthusiasm and an iron will. Both politicians served in several administrative functions, before being elected as presidents. They are born in the Zodiac sign of Libra, which makes them excellent communicators, with diplomatic skills and finely tuned sensitivity for their counterparts. This was mirrored in the highly diplomatic language used on both sides during the final press conference in Dushanbe.
"I express my great satisfaction with our talks. I am sure that this official visit by the President of Russia, our friend, will open a new page in the rich history of our countries' relations," President Emomali Rahmon said.
President Vladimir Putin answered, "The President of Tajikistan, Mr. Rahmon, can take a lot of credit for the high level of interstate relations, the strategic partnership and cooperation that we have. He has done much to see the results in the agreements signed. Let me say a few words about our talks today. They took place in a very friendly, frank and businesslike atmosphere."
Obviously, these statesmen are masters in flattering, flowery speech, as could be expected from Oriental potentates. No haggling or squabbling, no insults and threats, as is often the case in the West. The Asian way of dealing with each other is considerate and complimentary, bringing about the best of results.
The Indian journalist of the Russia & India Report praised President Putin's "immense personal charisma among all Central Asian peoples and his reputation for being decisive. He enjoys excellent personal chemistry with the Central Asian leaderships, and his fame as Orientalist is unmatched among Russia's political elites, who are largely considered to be Westerners with no passion for the steppes."
After the talks, Vladimir Putin and Emomali Rahmon visited Russia's 201st Gatchina Twice-Red Banner Military Base in Tajikistan, which was awarded the Order of Zhukov by the Russian President. He fixed the decoration to the base's battle flag. The 201st motor rifle division is one of the most combat-effective Russian divisions, consisting of 7.000 soldiers and three motor rifle regiments: the 92nd, stationed in Dushanbe; the 148th, in Kulob; the 191st, in Kurgan-Tyube.
Furthermore, the 998th artillery regiment and the 1098th air defense regiment are both based in Dushanbe, together with an air group of seven helicopters. Dushanbe also hosts the 670th air group with five Su-25 fighter jets, while a battery of MlRS "Grad" BM-21 is stationed in Kurgan-Tyube. Russia has an optical-electronic complex "Oleno" in Nurak for outer space surveillance. It was designed to detect and identify space objects. The Russian military and their families enjoy the rights of diplomatic personnel in Tajikistan. They have immunity against arrest, search and the confiscation of personal belongings. With the signing of the new agreement, Russia's presence in Central Asia has acquired the final shape for decades ahead. Highly satisfied with the outcome, President Vladimir Putin presented Russia's latest sniper rifle to President Emomali Rahmon as a personal gift for his 60th birthday. The military nature of this present is obvious. It seals the successful military deal between the two allies.
Another major player is the People's Republic of China. The Chinese leaders are also wooing the little country in the Pamir mountains, due to its strategic position, bordering on China's Xinjang Uygur Autonomous Region. Tajikistan and big sister China share a 500-kilometer-long border. The Uygur Autonomous Region is the largest Chinese administrative division, spanning over 1.6 million square kilometers, an area about the size of Iran, with almost 22 million inhabitants who are mainly Moslems. The region is a major supplier of agricultural products, especially fruits, such as grapes, melons and pears, but also of wheat, cotton and silk. It possesses large deposits of oil and minerals. In the 19th century, the region was noted for producing gold and jade.
Emomali Rahmon is just as friendly and obliging towards the Chinese leaders as he is towards the Russian President, with mutual visits between Beijing and Dushanbe going back and forth. Hu Jintao, China's President, has met the Tajik President 13 times since 2003, assuring that both sides should maintain frequent interactions on regional and international issues of common concern. Chinese-Tajikistani cooperation touches the areas of agriculture, education, energy, infrastructure, sports, science and technology.
The two countries harbour medium and long term plans in farming, fishing, livestock breeding, processing of agricultural products and agriculture technology, a senior official of the Communist Party of China, Zhou Yongkang, commented. He visited Dushanbe in August 2012 to hold talks with the Tajik Prime Minister, Akil Akilov. Both countries' bilateral trade has increased by 14 times between 2007 and 2012. Tajikistan has leased out 600 hectares of agricultural land in its south to a Chinese company, which is showing great success. Chinese millions are flowing to the little neighbouring country continuously. Since 2005, China has disbursed 900 million USD to help Tajikistan build new roads, tunnels and electricity lines. In 2012, the two sides signed new agreements for Beijing to lend Dushanbe another one billion dollars. Of this new credit, 600 million will be spent on the construction of a cement factory in the south.
China's Zijin Mining Group has invested 200 million USD into gold mining in Tajikistan. The joint venture produces 1.3 tonnes of gold annually and shall be expanded to yield five tonnes per year by 2016. The Chinese National Petroleum Company (CNPC) is currently exploring gas and oil potential in Tajikistan, side by side with the Russian companies. The Islamic Republic of Iran is the third player involved in this region. Tajikistanis and Iranians are brotherly peoples, culturally and historically connected for 2.500 years. Both nations speak the same language, although the alphabets differ. The capitals lie 1.000 kilometers apart, but when their presidents meet, they do not need interpreters.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Emomali Rahmon lead the world's two majority Persian-speaking nations. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, "Iran and Tajikistan are one spirit in two bodies."
When the Republic of Tajikistan declared its independence, Iran was the first nation to establish an embassy in Dushanbe and provided assistance to build new mosques. Iran's red, white and green tricolor flag served as a model for Tajikistan's flag.
Iranian culture - books, films, music and TV programmes - are widely popular with the Tajik people. They also celebrate Nowrooz, the Iranian New Year Festival. Iran provides language classes in Dushanbe to teach the Persian script, holds art exhibitions and has already transcribed 350 books from Persian script into Tajik Cyrillic. During his last visit to Dushanbe, the Iranian President inaugurated the Iran Culture House. It features an Iranian restaurant, a book exhibition and displays Iranian clothing. Sunni Islam is the official religion of Tajikistan. The government has declared two Islamic holidays, Id Al-Fitr and Idi Qurban, as state holidays. The population is 98 percent Muslim and two percent Russian Orthodox. Generally, the relationship between all religions in Tajikistan is amiable and tolerant.
There are no animosities between Tajik Sunni and Iranian Shiite Muslims, either. On the contrary, they respect each other as belonging to one big religious family. Muhiddin Kabiri, head of Tajikistan's Islamic Renewal Party, noted, "We are two peoples united by a common language, literature, history and religion, Islam."
On the 12th of February 2011, the Tajik Foreign Minister, Hamrokhon Zarifi, stated at an event in Dushanbe, while celebrating the anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution, "Today, Tajik society is witnessing the Islamic Republic of Iran's activity and role in the growth and expansion of Tajikistan's economy." He referred to projects like the Sangtodeh-2 power plant, the Anzob Tunnel and Istiklol Tunnel as examples of Iran's role in Tajik economy.
Both countries wish to revive the old Silk Road leading from China across Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Iran to the Mediterranean Sea. Another joint venture project is a 500 million USD cement factory in Tajikistan's Khatlon province. Furthermore, Iran has spent millions on the development of hydropower in Tajikistan and is now planning to build a new hydropower plant near the Zarafshan River. In 2011, trade turnover between Iran and Tajikistan reached 500 million USD. Another sign of their good connections are the daily flights between Dushanbe and Teheran, which are served by Iran Air, Iran Aseman Airlines and Tajik Air.
The multitude of undertakings and projects prove that Russia, China and Iran are closing ranks in Tajikistan, with the long term aim of blocking the Central Asian landmass against intrusions and interventions from outside. Tajikistan indicated that it wants to join the Customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. It has already joined SCO, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which also includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The organization was founded in Shanghai, in the year 2001. Iran, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Mongolia attend the summits as guests with observer status. The official languages of the SCO are Russian and Chinese. At the summit in Astana/Kazakhstan in 2005, the Kazhak President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, greeted his guests with the following words: "The leaders of the states sitting at this negotiation table are the representatives of half of humanity." This half of humanity can be observed as emancipating itself, growing together to defend and protect its homelands. 
In June 2012, the SCO held military exercises in Tajikistan, dubbed "Peace Mission 2012." About 2.000 troops from Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan participated in the drills, held at the Choruk-Dairon training ground, some 30 kilometers east of the northern Tajik city of Khujand. Once in a while, some western media like to point out that the post-Soviet republics, including Tajikistan, are "flirting with the West." This could be true. Flirting, however, is quite a different matter from matrimony. One might flirt here and there, but will surely think twice before getting married. A saying of the late Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin comes to mind, "The logic of circumstances is always stronger than the logic of intention."  In certain circumstances it is pragmatic and wise to seek good contact and close cooperation with one's circumambient neighbours, especially if they are financially and militarily as powerful as Russia, China and Iran.
For those readers who cannot appreciate what Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin (1878-1953) had to say, here is a short poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), the famous German classic author, who formulated nearly the same idea, albeit a century earlier and in a more poetic way:
Willst du immer weiter schweifen?
Sieh, das Gute liegt so nah.
Lerne nur das Glück ergreifen.
Denn das Glück ist immer da.
Goethe, "Memento": Do you want to roam always further?  Look, good things are so close.  Learn to grasp fortune, as fortune is always present. Prepared for publication by Lisa Karpova, Pravda.Ru.

Posté par pcassuto à 14:16 - - Permalien [#]

Universities already engaged in Asia

http://resources2.news.com.au/cs/australian/paid/images/sprite/logos.pngBy Chrys Gunasekara, Croydon NSW. Engagement in higher education partnerships is a key plank in the Asia White Paper. Australian universities have been doing this, with mixed success, for several years.
Several approaches have been adopted, from full-scale campus presence to joint programs staffed from Australia, attracting international students to study here and expanding distance education into Asia. Several Australian universities have representation in Asian markets through arrangements with local agents who promote the universities’ offerings abroad. The Asia White Paper builds on these initiatives and encourages closer and stronger ties.

Posté par pcassuto à 14:13 - - Permalien [#]