March 03, 2006

Anyone at the union know maths?

Just got an email from Brian saying that we are fully going to support the AUT on the strike action. Personally I completely agree, professors in UK are heavily underpaid for the amount of work they do and they must be recognized. What I dont get is how the union is thinking about this issue.
The problem with all the officers is that they want to be loved by everyone. I can understand that they want university professors to get better pay but then where is the money going to come from? Its certainly not going to fall off trees (although that might help). I realize that the professors were promised an increase in fees, and rightly so. But I don't know how the union is opposed to top-up fees and yet wants professors to get a higher pay at the same time? Obviously someone somewhere making these decisions needs to take a crash course in mathematics.

March 02, 2006

India and the US – Its about bloody time!

India and US have finally signed a highly contreversial yet in my opinion (I know I'm Indian and all that) a deal which is historic. India IS the world's largest democracy and it has always always annoyed me that the US did not consider it important enough in its international agenda. I think this deal highlights the coming of age of India in the global field. One would have thought that the US would want to have great relations with the world's bigest democracy that is quite stable.

The deal itself is contreversial because it gives India complete access to the civilian nuclear technology possessed by US. India like Pakistan and Israel has not yet signed the Non-proliferation treaty and does indeed possess a nuclear arsenal. Now what everyone has a problem with is how can US deny Iran nuclear technology while encouraging research in India? I think the answer is simple – India is much much more responsible with nuclear technology than Iran or Pakistan. In fact Pakistan has actually illegally sold nuclear technology to a lot of countries, but India did actually recognize the sensitivity of the information. I am in no way anti-Pakistani just stating the facts.

I believe the deal must be honored by the US congress as India is a responsible DEMOCRACY with humungous energy needs. If the deal fails, India will have to rely on Coal and with the amount of energy required it will do no good to the environment.

This is the first time I feel positively about Bush…...although its bound not to last long.


February 19, 2006

What's all the fuss about?

I just heard on the Radio that in the Baftas Brokeback Mountain was the film that bagged 4 of the main awards. I have no idea how the judges regard Brokeback mountain as being any better than The Constant Gardener? I have seen both the films, and while Brokeback mountain is a good film with some brilliant acting it is not half as gripping as The Constant Gardener. I also feel the subject matter handled by The Constant Gardener is of great importance. Pharmaceuticals have been known to exploit the poor and vehemently opposed the production of generic drugs until just recently. When a child every ten minutes is dying of Malaria, and drug companies are still a lot more worried about profits than saving the lives of the poorest people who need medicines the most, it becomes a cause for concern

I personally believe The Constant gardener should have one best movie, best director and best acting for being able to portray brilliantly the exploitation of the poor. It has a a far superior script, awesome acting and is a story which makes one more aware of whats goes on in the world, it is sad that it did not win many awards.


February 16, 2006

Guantanamo Bay, the view UN got right.

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4718724.stm

Its interesting to note how America is always on about Human Rights abuse in other countries, happily choosing to ignore similar situations in its own backyard.
Two of the prominent ones I can think of are the nuking of innocent Japanese and locking up prisoners in Guantanamo Bay without trial (let alone a fair one). I bring up the issue of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings to highlight discrepancies in historical records. Where many americans to this day claim that the bombing of Japan was the difinitive end to WWII, BBC has released a documentary in which it has shown how the bombs were completely unnecessary and were only used by the US administration to show the world that they were indeed the superpower everyone made them out to be. In fact it goes on to claim that Japan had indicated many times to surrender, but US chose to ignore those signals completely. Whether the unneccessary loss of 360,000 innocent people was just a ploy to showcase its military strengths or not, in no way can such a huge loss ever be justified and must be condemned forever.

The issue with Guantanamo Bay although not similar, is just another way in which US is unnecessarily exploiting its military prowess for inhumane means. It is a plot of land owned by US (thanks to Castro) in Cuba. The US has been usig it as a place for detaining anyone it sees as a threat. This includes 12 year old Afghani children, I don't know how a 12 year old child sitting in Afghanistan is capable of blowing up America, but apparently he is. Now just as in Abu Ghrain with the British and US troops abusing Iraqi soldiers, there is not less torture in Guantanamo Bay. I quote from the U.N. report "The report expresses concern at the use of excessive force during transportation and force-feeding through nasal tubes during hunger strikes, which it says amounts to torture." These people are not even allowed to die in peace. The US refuses to to investigate any allegations, it refuses to give any prisoner a free trial and it refuses to ovey the Geneva convention. This is a country that lauds itself on its spick and span Human Rights record, it accuses nations such as China of Human Rights abuse regularly and fails to consider its own atrocities. Shame on you America.


February 14, 2006

Smoking to be banned EVERYWHERE

Writing about web page http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2039595,00.html

Yes I know you are all tired of me going on about it, but just to let you all know that smoking is now going to be banned in almost every enclosed public area including pubs that don't sell food! It should be in place by early next year.
Also I quote “Over time we estimate an additional 600,000 people will give up smoking as a result of this law and millions more will be protected from second hand smoke."

At last our union might be completely smoke-free after all! So despite what the stupid executive committee decides there will be no choice!!!! I guess things worked out for the best after all


February 11, 2006

UK Universities must change or face international student decline

As I have argued in my previous article, top-up fees are the best idea for a long time in the UK higher education system. I have stressed that a university education is an investment and that universities must be allowed to charge fees so as to increase their competitiveness.

Now I know most of you do not agree with me, but the truth is that British universities are in desperate need of finances. As of now one of their greatest source of income is the international student (outside of the EU). A nice article on how international students are financially important is the following one
link

Universities prefer hiring international students because we pay a hell of a lot more, I pay almost 9000 pounds and students in engineering and WBS pay more than 11,000 just for tuition alone. Like it or not, we are one of the best source of income the universities can get because the income gotten from international students is not subject to the restrictions imposed from the money given by the government bodies. Together international students pay 4,000,000,000 pounds in tuition fees in the UK and that is a LOT of money. The sad part of it is that international students are so much in demand that universities are even willing to lower their entry requirements for some of them and there have been many news articles on that alone. Even Oxford had announced that it would recruit considerably more international students at the expense of local ones.

The above is exactly why I would like you to consider the universities as business firms and not only places of learning. I am not saying that it is the right way of looking at it but asking you to accept it as being true. If Warwick university had not spent a considerable amount of money into building its image, into brand building as well as prettying up the campus, it would not be as desirable as other universities. Universities also have to sell themslves to students. What makes you pick Warwick over Sheffield university??? Or pick Oxbridge over Nottingham??? It is the advantages that come with having Warwick university on your Degree, or of having Oxford on your degree. At the end of the day everyone's first impression of you will be positive if you tel them you are an Oxbridge graduate. You might argue that you picked Warwick because of its campus or its repuation of good teachers or of its high ranking. But again it is all a part of brand building that lets other people know of the good proffessors or of the excellent facilities (pah!) on campus. It is true that the RAE (Research Assessment Excercise) and other methods are extremely important for determining the ranking of universities and universities know that. Warwick has a steering committee specifically for that purpose and it invests in proffessors that already have a good reputation in their field, it invests in facilities to develop research(hard to imagine I know) and at the end of the day when it gets the RAE ranking of 5 it makes sure to tell the whole world about it , especially to students like me that pay too much.

Ok – now to move on to the real crisis – decline in application of internatonal students!
Hard as it may be to imagine but international students are now not applying at the same rate as before. As pointed out in the articel this is because of the intense competition int he higher education sector. US Australia and UK have had the stronghold over the past few years but are not immune to foreign competition. The article explains it well

My personal views are –

The US was losing applications after 9/11 due to factors such as increased security to many visa problems etc. But are now back on track. Why??? Because they are simply the best. They have the most resources better universties and the most important factor -they give a hell of a lot of scholarships to intellignet students from abroad. UK apart from the top 10 universities does not have the quality of education that US can provide. It barely offers scholarships as universities can't afford to. The value of a degree from the US remains the highest (only for the top 50 or so universities) in the world. I have ranted about it already in the top up fees article.

Australia is another big player in the higher education sector. It has some superb universities such as University of Melbourne and Australian National University and they don't charge as much as UK universities. Australia is also a lot more agrresive in its marketing espcially in Asia and again it offers more scholarships and grants as well as for some degrees the promise of citizenship afterwards (especially Engineering and Medicine)

Singapore, UAE and Malaysia are emerging markets but especially singapore is a really important one. The National University of Singapore has an amazing exchange program with the top 25 universities in the world, not only amongst students but also proffessors. Singapore also has a tie up with the University of Chicago for some research and teaching.

To sum up my views. The UK is losing out because of competitiveness (or lack thereof) in its higher education sector. If universities were given more finances, more freedom to choose how to spend their money and especially more fees the situation would be a lot different. Price is not the only factor determining where students go. People will buy a BMW even if it increases its prices because of the brand image of BMW, just as people are willing to borrow $100,000 to do an MBA in Wharton or Harvard because at the end of the day the investment will pay off. So Uk needs to do a lot more to build the UK brand in the higher education sector – by hiring Nobel laureates as proffessors or people of similar calibre, by investing in research institutes like the 100,000,000 Math research laboratory being built in Cambridge, by adding value to a degree beyond pure knowledge becaue at the end of the day you may be brilliant but if you do not market yourself well you will not recieve the right pay.

I have come to UK becaue my parents chose it for me and because I prefer the people in UK, I have heard of a lot of negative attitudes towards people of south asian origin in the US and have experienced racism in Australia myself. UK is also a beautiful country and it has the largest Indian population outside of India. But I chose Warwick because of its high ranking in economics, good reputation back home and the fact that representatives of Warwick came to my school to persuade us to come here. The fact is rankings matter, branding matters and how you sell yourself as a university is also extemely important.


February 07, 2006

The Danish PM deserves respect

As blogged by many people, the issue of the newspapers publishing cartoons of Muhammad have seen a storm of protests. I personally believe Ankit's entry link has a good argument on the issues of free speech. Although I believe the newspaper was wrong to publish the cartoons and so were the other newspapers, who then did not apologise in the name of preserving free speech, I believe the anger at the Danish people must stop.

The Nordic countries are peace loving countries and have always helped the poor, unlike the USA or Australia, Denmark gives 1% of its GNP towards international aid, one of the highest percentages amongst the rich nations. Norway is helping out with the peace agreement between SriLankan government and the LTTE. They do not possess nuclear weapons, they have the lowest rates of corruption and are probably the safest and best living conditions. Denmark also has a 200,000 Muslim population, who themselves did not react with such violence.
The prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen rightly says "We need to resolve this issue through dialogue, not violence," apart from pointing out that Danish people are not the enemies of Islam. But what truly caught my attention was his remark

"[This] is a very unpleasant situation for Danes, we're not used to this,
It is true, Danes are peace loving people who live in probably one of the best countries to live in. They do not interfere too much with messy politics and respect the values of democracy. Unfortunately the newspaper that published the articles failed to recognize that free speech does not mean depicting Muhammad as a terrorist, and its failure to apologise has put an entire country of innocent peace loving people in turmoil, as well as giving fundamentalists another reason to take demonstrations to an entire new level.

I fully respect the Danish PMs stance in this issue, and hope that the Danish people aren't misrepresented due to the action of one newspaper being copied by others arounf Europe.


February 05, 2006

Should we follow Oxford?

Oxford recently announced that each student must sign a contract upon being accepted to enter university that would require them to attend lectures and classes.
link

They have done this to prevent them from being sued if a student does not do well as the student can easily blame the institution for not teaching well….. etc

However, thinking of Warwick uni, I wonder what would the reaction be to such a contract? Many students don't go to all of their lectures, while some don't go to any. I went to do a lecture shout in an engineering lecture in which there were only 20 (out of maybe 250) students present! It makes you wonder what students come to university for?

If lectures were made compulsory then I think the outcome would be more positive, as proffessors that can't teach will be given a lot of negative feedback and hopefully relieved of their duties, as well as in my view it will increase to some extent the grades obtained by students. While many studies show no connection between lectures and grades in introductory modules (e.g. economics 1), however attending lectures positively affects grades in modules which go into deeper understanding of the material.

Most importantly – a lecture has to add value to a text book for students to want to go there. For example I went to all of my Phil lectures in term 1 because the lecturer never just followed the core text, but added immense value to the core readings making attending lectures compulsory by default. Similarly econometrics or mathematical economics lectures I feel add real value to text book knowledge. In the current situation only the most value added lectures and those given by good professors will be attended by most of the students, whereas ones where it is just as easy to read of a text book will (should) not get too many attendeea. So may be if we make it compulsory to attend all lectures, just maybe the lecturers will also feel obliged to do more on their part to make us want to be there out of choice.

So I think it just might be a good idea after all (but not if its a 9 am one!)


February 03, 2006

One World Week and Biasness of the Boar

It seems to me that the Boar (my favorite source of inspiration) has made a complete mess of the idea of one world week. So far in its features or sketches or opinions I have not seen any praises for one world week, instead only criticisms on it being created by the upper middle class for the upper middle class and being a waste of time.

That annoys me because not only does it take away all the credit the organisers deserve but it also destroys the spirit and the intent of the week. In my opinion one world week is an event to make us students much more aware of the problems faced in the world, while at the same time learning about and respecting other peoples' cultures. If anyone attended the talks they would have seen the diverse range of topics, and a lot of them focused on the problems faced by poorer regions, and the efforts or lack thereof to rectify them. Now you may argue that knowing all of this is not sufficient, it does not help change anything, but that is the wrong attitude. It is only when people become aware of human trafficking or of the speed of development of China or the negative side of globalization can they form a knowledgable opinion on the issue as well as take action to rectify the wrongdoings upon graduating. University is a place of learning, one world week is just another way of learning

Apart from talks, the days for the different regions of the world and the themed cinemas were absolutelyt brilliant. I saw Control Room in the arts centre and it is truly a great documentary, and I would not have known of the middle-eastern perspective on the Iraq war had I not seen the movie. I also got to see dances, eat great food and meet amazing people! Is there really anything wrong in that? Should I be feeling ashamed that I interacted with "middle class" students along the way? Have I done a great wrong by enjoying myself?

The Boar, as well as a lot of students talk of integration between British and international students, but this will never happen if there are no opportunities for them to integrate. I saw a lot of British students at One World Week, and as far as i could see they enjoyed themselves as much as i did. All of the events were sold out, most recieved great responses and everyone involved had a nice time.
It is not just to enhance CVs that the event is created, nor is it to satisfy a desire to show that students are capable of it. It is to inform, to make people aware and to influence them to make right decisions or atleast informed ones in the future.


February 02, 2006

Why can't we kick out non –uni students from union events?

The past two issues of Boar have described some serious incidents going on around in the union. Now although the union denies certain aspects of it, the fact is the incidents were quite serious and frankly I dont see many warwick students doing it.

What really really angered me are the local youths of coventry picking a fight with uni students. I have seen them drive past bus stops at night in their cars, honking at girls cursing guys and fucking about basically and I can't stand them! Who the hell do they think they are coming to our uni, messing with our students???? I have no problem with people coming to the union having a nice time and enjoying themselves,. but if they abuse the union and unnecessarily cause havoc should we really allow them here?

Our university does not even have a main gate! Its just open road, anyone can come and go and it is obvious that they will abuse this right to do so. I have been egged while walking three times and funny as it might seem it is annoying and not something any student should go through. Think of the dangers of getting raped if you are a female, think of the possible muggings (has happened) and the increase in thefts ( I worked at the union and know that a lot of stuff gets stolen).


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