January 10, 2011

Confusing immigration statistics

updated: 11 January 2011

Like many other countries today, immigration is a very sensitive issue here in the UK. Apparently a lot of people seem to agree that there are too many immigrants in the UK and people are now openly saying it out loud.

However, what makes it very confusing are the numbers quoted by various organisations and individuals. I am not going to quote who said what but identify some issues and some questions for researchers to look at.

First of all, which numbers should be quoted? Do you look at the estimate migrant flows (International Passenger Survey, IPS) or the the foreign resident population (Annual Population Survey, APS). I think that it is essential to look at both and deeper.

According to Migration Watch UK, the net immigration in 2009 "was 196,000. 3 million immigrants have arrived since 1997". What they failed to mention was that "among those classed as immigrants to the UK in 2009, many were actually Britons returning from overseas." (Source: BBC). Plus the net increase might also be due to the fact that fewer British people are moving overseas.

As the UK is part of the EU, it can't do much about people from other EU states moving into the UK so the focus in on the citizens from non-EU countries who are now subject to much tougher rules. The question is why does most immigration numbers quoted always include all foreigners without differentiating between EU + non-EU foreigners? Is it to beef up the numbers?

Next issue relates to students. 362,015 student visas were issued between June 2009 and June 2010. This number is of course included in the total number of immigrants but I would like to argue that most students are not long term migrants but are instead customers of British education planing to stay in the UK for only between 1 to 5 years (sometimes a bit more for some who continue from undergraduate to post graduate studies). I think it would not be wrong to consider them as long term tourists. 

Another issue is the number of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants, the numbers are altogether very hazy. I have no idea whether they are being included in the net immigration statistics at all.

To get a better picture, I recommend that all organisations and individuals quoting statistics about the net immigration into the UK should always include

1. the EU and Non-EU numbers.

2. the number of Britons returning from overseas

3. the number of students (EU and Non-EU again).

4. Clarify whether the number includes refugees and illegal immigrants.

This would give a better idea of the net immigration into this country and help make better policy decisions.


January 06, 2011

Cycling on a budget

Today was the first time I cycled to the campus this year. I stopped cycling in November when it got too cold and I have totally lost shape. I used to do the approx. 5 miles in about 30 minutes. Today it took me 50 minutes.

I started cycling late last year due a number of reasons. First of all, the journey to campus in the mornings was a terrible experience with all the traffic jams. After reaching campus, I would then have to go round and round all the car parks looking for a parking space. Sometimes it could take me more than half an hour to find a parking space. Public transport is no better - there is no direct bus and I would have to change 2 buses in order to reach campus, taking nearly and hour to reach the University from my house in Radford.

Finally with the rise in petrol prices and the prohibitive parking rates and the fact that I no longer have a scholarship means that I can't afford to come to campus by car anymore.

So cycling was becoming a very attractive option. Plus, it would be a great workout and hopefully I could regain back the pecs I lost a couple of years ago.

I didn't have a really large budget and to be honest I was quite naive to think that cycling was the cheaper option. Maybe it is in the long run but the initial outlay is quite high. I mean, all the good bikes I liked cost a few hundred pounds. You then need to think about a helmet, lights, cycling pants, security locks, etc. and they are not cheap.

In the end I decided to buy a used bike and went on to eBay. I was lucky and won a great ladies bike for just £16/ - I don't really care but to my daughter's dissapointment, I decided to take off the pink stickers. I invested a bit on a new chain after the old chain broke twice. The old saddle was terrible and after a bit of searching, I bought a new WTB saddle over eBay for just £12 including postage.

Dilip

As a student, I don't think you should spend that much on a bike.

There are loads of bargains on eBay and you might be able to get a good one as I did for less than £50. However, be ready to upgrade some parts.  Later on I also found out about Action 21, a charity that promotes environmental, social and economically sustainable projects in and around Warwick. They sell recycled bikes which have been thoroughly checked by trained mechanics with prices starting at just £30. They sell bikes each Friday at 10am at Action 21's Re-Useful Centre: 5 Ramsey Road, Sydenham, CV31 1PL.

If you a bit of a mechanic, you can ask around for some of the old bikes rusting in the backyards of a number of houses. Some may actually give it to you for free. That could be a great DIY project. Moreover, classic bikes with flaking paints are now in fashion after a few celebrities were seen riding them. The bad news is that this has resulted in a hike in the prices of old bikes. What used to be available for a couple of pounds on eBay now go for around £50 and more for a rusting old Raleigh  - it's ridiculous. 

Of course if you have the cash, you can go out a buy a top of the range, carbon fibre road bike with top of the range spec. but I would make sure I kept it in my room when I am not riding it. I would be sad if someone stole my bike (it happens even in our campus) but not as sad as I would be if I lost one that cost me around a thousand pounds.


January 01, 2011

Happy New Year

Wishing all visitors to my blog a very happy and Prosperous New Year. 

2011


December 12, 2010

Seminars and students

In my 3 years working as a tutor for various courses here at the University of Warwick,  I have noticed that most students don't really take the seminar classes or the tutors seriously. 

The exceptions are when they need to work out exercises that might come out in the exam or when they need to work on teams for a group project (which will be evaluated).

Usually the first year students are quite diligent but once they enter the 2nd year, somehow they kind of change. 

It used to be worse but somehow improved after it was required to take attendance for seminars with a minimum required attendance. However, it seems that they are taking it less seriously now.

I heard some talk that were not really happy with the fact that PhD students were taking the classes. The thing is that this is a common practise all over the World especially in the US. Furthermore, many PhD students have years of working experience (sometimes more than the lecturers themselves) that students can benefit from. 

I was wondering whether the students would be more serious about their seminars if they were aware that in many cases (not all), their final exam answers and assignments would be marked by the seminar tutors as well. 



Around 3 months to go before I say bye to this blog

I recently received an email from the IT services saying that my account will expire in a month's time. I informed them that my study had been extended till March next year. Soon, I received a response saying that my account has been extended till March next year in line with my student ID number. 

I was quite surprised as I had thought that all the information would have been automatically updated.

Anyway, that was not what this post was about but the fact that I will have access to my account till March and would be able to blog here till then. So what happens after that?

I don't think IT services deletes any of the blogs because some blogs of guys who have since left the University are still online but not updated. 

I know that my account will be deleted which means that I won't be able to post or edit my posts on this blog or any other blog which I am a member of. Of course, I never expected this to last forever but kind of makes me wonder whether the time and effort you have put into this blog was worth it when in the end, the blog doesn't even actually belong to you. It may be hugely popular with thousands of hits but then in the end it doesn't matter.

Is it even your intellectual property?

So if you want ownership of a blog, a place where you can continue ranting or sharing your intimate thoughts, even after you complete your studies at Warwick or in case you are an employee, happen to get employment somewhere else, it might be better off to blog in Blogger or Typepad or Wordpress.


November 05, 2010

Group dynamics in seminar classes

This term I am in charge of a few seminar classes for an international business course for 2nd year Undergraduate students. I have been quite impressed with the quality of the discussions most of the time. Contrary to the views of many people outside the University, that boozing and partying are all University students ever interested in, I found most of the students to be quite serious with their studies - many coming to the class prepared. 

Most of them are highly intelligent anyway - the fact that they got into Warwick is proof of that.

You might notice that I use the word "most" and it's quite interesting to observe the group dynamics of the various seminar groups. I was quite surprised to see how one or two enthusiastic students could animate the whole class and enliven the proceedings. I wish I had more of these guys in all my seminar classes.




November 02, 2010

The Autism epidemic

When we set off to do our PhD at the University of Warwick, both my wife and I had no idea that during the process, we would face something that would change our life forever. Our son was diagnosed with autism when he was around 2 years old even though we had realised that something was wrong much earlier.

All the professionals we saw told us that there were some therapies could help them (autistic children) to some extent “but ....” and they would trail off.

We got that it was a lifelong condition and there was nothing much we could do about it but just accept the fact and live with it.

At first we were in shock and as it sunk in, came extreme depression. We didn’t have anyone to turn to. However, my wife was not willing to accept the opinion of the professionals – that there was no cure for autism – after all it was just their opinion. I mean no offense to all “autism experts” reading this. She couldn't concentrate on her PhD work for a year and instead focussed on researching on autism. 

Anyway, during our research we came across different alternative therapies and several parents who claim to have successfully treated their autistic children who were now normal. Later on we even met a few people who claimed that they had once been diagnosed with autism and were now considered neuro-typical (normal). Of course, we were really sceptical but as experienced researchers we were not going to just ignore these claims without checking them. And what we found was astonishing; several of the children had actually been diagnosed with autism once and had now lost their diagnosis. However, whenever we asked the professionals, including our paediatrician, they straightaway rejected these claims or simply told us that there was not enough evidence.

After depending on the NHS and Coventry city council for around a year and not seeing any progress, we decided to explore various alternative therapies with amazing results. We were not going to hang around for the evidence to emerge. You can read our experiences in our Journey with Imaan.

According to official reports, 1 in every 100 kid now falls in the autism spectrum. However, according to Lilias Ahmeira, a practitioner of complimentary therapy/energy medicine and mother of a child with autism, 1:54 children born in the UK will have a spectrum disorder.

We also recently found out that out of all the kids starting reception this year in Coventry, around a 100 have been diagnosed with autism. No one is sure about the number of kids without a diagnosis.

Given these fact, it was really surprising that so little research has been carried out in this area. Is this apathy from both the medical community and the politicians alike due to the fact that unlike AIDS, cancer or other medical condition, the issue of death does not normally come up for the people diagnosed with autism and is thus not seen as a priority? If we look at the definition of an epidemic, it does look like we now have an autism epidemic. Moreover, what does this mean for the society in the future especially since it is estimated that the figures given above will increase every year - double approximately every five years according to Lilias? What is the long term impact?

I can understand the ignorance of politicians but the lack of interest from the medical community is baffling. I put this question to my own father who a professor of Pathology. He was surprised himself when he did some research and found a lack of literature on this area. He guessed that this may be related to funding issues – something I am well aware about. Most of the big funders of medical research are the pharmaceutical companies and according to him, they are probably not interested. Another reason I guess, may be because of the fallout of Dr. Wakefield and the autism-vaccine-mercury controversy. And talking about Dr. Wakefield, even though it had been ruled that he acted unethically in carrying out his research and his co-authors all washed their hands off, this does not mean (contrary to news reports) that their research results are incorrect.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this epidemic facing us or is it even an epidemic?


October 11, 2010

Top foreign exchange earner for Coventry

Coventry was once the home of the British Motor industry with famous names like Daimler,Humber, Rover and Jaguar. Of all those great names, the only one surviving is Jaguar which is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Indian company Tata Motors Ltd. You can see some of the amazing cars at the Coventry Transport Museum.

Tata has been able to turnaround Jaguar Landrover and they now back in the the black. However, the greatest foreign exchange earner for Coventry is not the car industry or the various small IT companies in various technology parks but a sector which has been largely ignored by a lot of people including the British Government - the Education sector. In fact it would not be wrong to say that the education sector is the largest earning sector in the entire West Midlands. This is of special significance in Coventry which is the home to two universities - Coventry University and Warwick University. Many people (as I once did) wrongly assume that the latter is in Warwick but in fact, this top ranked Russell group University is in fact in Coventry. They are among the largest employers in Coventry and according to a report in 2008, together they employ around 7,000 people.

According to Mark Harrison, a Professor of Economics at the University of Warwick, the combined corporate revenues of these two Universities come to around £500 million a year. It should be mentioned here that these two universities are not the only educational institutions around - there are several local colleges offering diplomas and degrees in a number of courses including Henley College and City College Coventry. The significance of these Universities and local colleges towards the local and national economy is with regards to the money the students bring in, especially the foreign students in particular.

The Coventry University website says that they have over 3,000 students from more than 100 countries whereas, Warwick had 7,080 students (approximately 25% of the total number of students) in 2008/2009. The non-EC students are a top income earner for all Universities in the UK, due to the fact that have to pay approximately three times to what the local and European students. However, the fees they have to pay is not the only contribution. The students spend annually on an average £9427.50 for undergraduates and £12,412.50 for postgraduates (according to the International office University of Warwick). It is definitely higher for foreign students with families. This has virtually led to the growth of various supporting services - students need places to live in and in fact a number of landlords in Coventry earn a steady income from students living in rented accommodation. Places like Earlsdon, Foleshill, Tile Hill, Canley and of course, Lemington Spa has become places with sizable student populations. The city has also benefited from a ready supply of skilled graduates, many of which have settled down here contributing to the local economy as well as other fields.

I met a lady one day who was complaining that there were too many students in Lemington and as I listened quietly, I was thinking to myself that Lemington would be ghost town if it were not for the students. In fact most of the businesses there would go bankrupt in a couple of weeks if students were not there. That why I sometimes get fed up with the ignorance and the bigotry of some people here.

I also sometimes feel that Coventry has not taken enough advantage of the unique opportunities presented. 

Student accommodation is still a problem. A lot of students are getting ripped off by unscrupulous landlords. There is a huge potential for managed and reasonably priced yet good quality accommodation. 

Other sectors that can benefit from the unique opportunities presented includes electronics and gadgets, used cars, cycle repairs and accessories, printing services, fashion, etc. 

I also wonder why local companies are reluctant to take advantage of the cheap skilled labour at their doorsteps, which they can make use of (I don't want to use the term exploit).

Of course, there are some companies that have benefited because of their unique products and branding, location or pure luck. One such example is Ikea Coventry. They have benefited from the students which love their modern designs and affordable prices.  Their affordable food is another selling point and food outlets in the campus could probably learn a thing or two from them. Others are Tesco Cannon Park and Costa Coffee. They have benefited from their unique location but seem to have done almost nothing to take advantage of their unique situation.


October 08, 2010

Frequently asked questions by international PhD students

Here are a list of questions that are frequently asked by International PhD students (at least by those at WBS) and the answers are not readily available. 

  1. Can I teach while doing my PhD?
  2. Can I supervise students doing their Masters?
  3. Can I become part of the staff in the University?
  4. Can I get a scholarship after I start my PhD?
  5. Can I join a society as a PhD student?
  6. Is there a bank that does not change fees to International students to open an account?
  7. Can I get a second supervisor?
  8. Is it possible for me to get FREE accommodation in the campus?
  9. Is there a place in or around the campus where I can park my car for free?
  10. Can I get free coffee/ tea in the morning in the campus?
  11. Can I get married in the campus?

Ok, I admit some of the questions are NOT asked that frequently but believe it or not , the answer to all the questions is a big "YES!"


July 15, 2010

Are academics hindering blended learning uptake?

I recently attended the Fifth International Blended Learning Conference, which was organised by the University of Hertfordshire, UK. 

Some speakers mentioned that a major challenge in implementing blended learning strategies in their institutions were academics who were reluctant to use blended learning for a number of reasons. Some thought that they were not technology savvy (maybe related to a reluctance to learn new technologies or fear of technology), or don’t want to share the resources which they have developed (in other words, they were worried about the intellectual property issues) or they saw BL as an extra burden.

Many lecturers still preferred the old face-to-face style of classroom interactions.

And many just fulfilled the minimum requirements - to tick boxes – eg., uploading their notes to their online portals with no form of avenue for interactions. 

This indicates several underlying issues:

- That the academics were not convinced of the value of the blended learning strategies or

- May indicate a lack of motivation or

- It may simply be an indication of a lack of awareness (how the exisiting systems could be used for blended learning).

Several speakers also emphasised the importance of support of the top managers towards any BL initiative.  “To walk the talk”.  One presenter talked about institutionalised problems – about a top down only culture. 

Problems also arose where the top management showed a lack of support – for example, low attendance in workshops which had an adverse knock down effect down the ranks.

Would love to hear what you think?


Dilip Mutum

This blog records some of the thoughts and experiences of Dilip Mutum at the University of Warwick. He has been blogging since 2003 and this is but one of his many blogs.

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