Twisted reality of education fairs

Having just done a nice round of international educations fairs (and looking forward to two more), I can’t help but voice my amazement at the excitement among local education institutions. I like watching the students, who come for information about opportunities for studying abroad and the salespeople from western universities that tirelessly sell the promise of a top-class education in “place X” or “city Z”. These fairs are now big business, often organised by private companies that collect a sizeable royalty from universities wishing to expose themselves (pun intended) to the money-possessing student-wannabe. Universities see these events as a good way to contact clients and spend many thousands of dollars or pounds on sending the representatives (with massive amounts of publicity materials) to various corners of the world.
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All good.
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What drives me insane with education fairs, is the lack of logic at the local universities and private institutions – wherever I go for a visit, there are posters and leaflets advertising such events. WHY?? Don’t the local HEI players understand that these events are intended to steal students away from them, away from their country, students who will often never come back? Why advertise your own competition? Why help foreign institutions whisk away much of the best talent, those speaking good English, motivated and who can afford western levels of tuition?
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Having posters of these “academic piracy” events in your institution is not a sign of coolness, nor internationalisation. It is purely bad management, lack of proper perception, a careless approach to market, supply and demand. It is as if Apple had an advertisement for Samsung or Microsoft talked about the benefits of Ubuntu (competitive operating system). In real/normal business this would never happen, so why in higher education?
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Am I the only one that always binned these education fairs posters/leaflets?
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We pride ourselves on teaching students to think, but in our own back yard, that activity is less perfect, sometimes even missing completely. Dear Rectors, start ripping those posters down and yell at your teachers who unwittingly (gullibility is not a good thing) place these “how to steal a student” adverts in your universities.


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