Wednesday, March 23, 2005

PVA Cleared

The Australian Student Visa is a three step process for Indian Students.

Today I have cleared the Pre-Visa, which in practical terms is as good as the VISA. Wow!

After I pay the first semester fees, I will need to undergo a medical check up and then the visa will be stamped on the passport.

Looks like I will be leaving India on the 6th or 9th of April for Adelaide!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Seeking Alpha: The Finance Blog Resource Page

Seeking Alpha: "The Finance Blog Resource Page: a list of the best economics, investing, venture capital and personal finance blogs"

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Marketing Australian Business Schools

Brendan O'Keefe writes in the Australian about the rush for EQUIS, the European Quality Improvement System accredit ion by the Australian business schools.

BUSINESS schools keen to bridge the gap between Australia and the northern hemisphere powerhouses have made great advances.

Three schools, Queensland University of Technology's Brisbane Graduate School of Business, the University of Sydney's faculty of economics and business and the Macquarie Graduate School of Management have gained accreditation with EQUIS, the European Quality Improvement System, run by the European Foundation for Management Development.

They join Curtin University of Technology (accredited in 2001), the University of South Australia's division of business and enterprise and the University of Queensland's business school.

Australia counts education of one of the top exports from the country. As this article from the Advertiser from Adelaide shows the impact which the business of education has made to Australia.

Yet there is another semi-visible side to the story and it is one which could be the salvation of South Australia. The nation in general, with SA very much part of it, has become a favoured destination for foreign students. What was a postwar act of enlightenment more than 50 years ago, the Colombo Plan, has today become a giant industry, fast eclipsing manufacturing as secondary and tertiary students come here for Australian qualifications because our degrees and diplomas are recognised as true measures of knowledge.

Also, subjective though it is, it cannot be coincidence that in recent weeks I have come across half a dozen people very gainfully employed here by businesses which are half a world away in distance and time zones. I continue to find it remarkable that a state of 1.5 million, metropolis of one million, is home to three universities and a network of other colleges and campuses.

The Australian business schools attract the majority of the post graduate international students, in fact 70% of all students coming to study a post graduate course study in the business division of the university.

Couple this with the fact that Australia is largely a newer entrant in the world of MBA education and international education. USA and UK lead the pack. Some of the MBA programs in the US are more than 50 years old.

In this scenario Australia needs to change things along with the support of the government. The government is interested because they have pumped billions of dollars into the higher education in Australia and they are interested to recover a large part of the money. The best way to do that and also make the universities sustainable is build a strong international reputation for education.

The three things are :

  • Easier and simpler joining process

  • VISA procss

  • Quality Standards

  • Job or immigration opportunities in Australia

  • Australian universities have been very aggressive in marketing and admitting the students in their courses. They created the perfect vehicle for that. IDP Education Australia. This is a not-for-profit institution present in more than 50 countries in the world marketing the Australian universities and its courses.

    For example: I am joining the University of South Australia after attending the various seminars conducted by IDP and talking with their student counselors. They are also processing my student VISA free of cost. This is a great service which you cannot get for the USA or the UK.

    Also, they conduct once or twice a year a high admission drive (currently scheduled for the month of March all over India) where more than 30 universities visit the important cities all over India where interested students meet the admission officers and receive spot-admissions. In a way they bind you to the university.

    This ensures a continuous flow of students to the Australian universities.

    The process of getting a student visa for Australia is also more transperant than say for the US. The US visa is still based on chance whereas for Australia if you fulfill all the requirements there is a 90% chance of getting the visa. In addition, Australia is also flexible in its rules to allow spouses to accompany the students and also let them work during the study. In fact this is one of the strongest reasons for selecting Australia over US or UK for married students like me.

    The next step is convincing those students that Australian universities maintain high quality compared to the US and Europe.

    It is in this scenario that EQUIS accredition is beneficial. It says that these universities maintain a certain standard of education. This is important for a far flung student in India or China or Malaysia who is trying to spend a significant amount of money for studying in Australia.

    This is exactly the scenario which the India IT & BPO companies faced when they entered the US market. India's reputation for quality was equal to the reputation of Japanese products after WWII. Indians resorted to the ISO:9001 quality standards and the Carnegie Mellon's SEI CMM standards for building a fast quality reputation. Yes, the Microsofts of the world do not subscribe to these standards but new entrants in the industry need the recognition from these standards.

    The Australian Universities are following a similar pattern and I am sure it would provide fruitful to them. The Australian govt. does play role through its Australian Qualifications Framework.

    Now comes the notion of benefits from a university education. Why does anybody study in a University, more so in a different country? Mainly for benefits in in terms of better jobs, career prospects, salary and in the end a better standard of living.

    The best way for a International Australian Graduate to increase his standard of living is to work in Australia. This will guarantee a substantial increase in his standard of living especially for students from less developed Asian nations.

    The Australian governments are helping the cause and also solving the labour shortage problem by providing easier VISA regulations or Immigration opportunities. Not every student would want to live and work in Australia and in a similar sense not all interested students would be able to. However, the possibility itself raises many positive signs for selecting Australia as a preferred country for education.

    At the end of the day, Marketing plays in important role in selling products and services. The business schools in Australia are proving that they are adept in Marketing.

    If you are looking to specialize in your MBA from Australia then do consider Marketing!

    Education, jobs and careers

    Edwina Cameron writes in The Age about decisions faced by tertiary students (around 21 yrs of age) to decide on a career.

    It started after a holiday. Returning to a sedentary office job from two weeks of traveling around parts of Western Australia was more than I could bear and I quit my public relations position a week later. I want to go to a music festival in Byron Bay, I explained to my boss. After that, I will probably continue traveling up the east coast stopping to work in casual hospitality positions along the way.

    My employers couldn't understand my decision, primarily because I couldn't explain it to them. Quitting a promising job to take a road trip up the east coast with your flatmate is hardly considered an optimal career choice, particularly when you have a mortgage to consider.

    I am 22 years old and finished my public relations/journalism degree in 2003. From there I went straight into a good public relations job, the job I am now leaving.

    I also bought a three-bedroom weather board house with shoddy plumbing and a selection of ramshackle outhouses, the same house I am now renting out.

    Deciding what to do after I finished studying was an emotional, challenging and rushed process for me and for many others in my situation. The array of options is simultaneously dazzling and daunting and I ended up jumping into a nine-to-five job without really considering whether this was the right option for me at this stage of my life.

    The problem in my case is that I did too much too soon. Buying a house and rushing into a full-time job are both examples of steps in the so-called "right direction", a direction that isn't necessarily right for everyone at my age.

    There is pressure placed on tertiary students to make some serious, life-changing decisions in the last months of their degrees and there is considerable encouragement to go straight into a full-time "career job" as soon as a course finishes.

    In my opinion, the attitude of my friend's family comes from a fundamentally flawed tenet of our education system that states that the core purpose of learning is to get a job, not to satisfy personal interest.

    There is little emphasis in our society on the importance of building on our knowledge through personal experience and discovery by traveling, exploring and making the occasional controversial decision.

    Travel is recommended, but only in small, well-organised parcels that don't interfere with the all-important "building a career".

    I certainly speak for a minority. Most of the employed graduates I have spoken to are delighted to have entered the workforce and are feeling satisfied and rewarded in their new positions, as well as excited about their futures.

    I am also excited about my future, although at this point I'm not sure where that future is going to take me. With the rest of my life to build on my career and fulfill my ambitions, I have decided to take time now to do the things I may not be able to do in a decade.

    I am excited about the element of the unknown in my decision and I'm excited that six months from now I could be just about anywhere.

    I think she is right in a lot of ways. I faced similar situations in our life in India. I finished my tertiary education and the joined ADP Wilco, a Fortune 500 company, worked for 4 years in their investment banking division.

    I had to say that I got bored at the end of six months and continued for a coupe of years. Then I did not know what to do or where to go. Time passed, I got married, worked in the US still thinks did not change.

    In a way I thought that I was bound to work, bound because I could not find a rational reason to convince my family why I did not like my well paying job.

    A lot of friends are still in the company or in other companies doing similar jobs. The reality is that some are very happy, some think they are happy and the rest know that this is not the right thing but do not know where to go.

    One chance to work with Deeshaa Ventures changed everything. I started blogging, started companies, worked with people I respected, learnt to live in one of the toughest cities in the world - Bombay, lost all my money and savings, decided that I should do a MBA.

    One of the primary reasons for doing an MBA for me is learn, educate myself but also to give myself the time to find out what I want to do in life. I guess 2 years in Adelaide will involve a lot of self-realization, hopefully!

    Aussie Workforce News

    In the past week there has been much news on the Aussie Workforce. The main issue where the skill shortages faced by the Australian Economy which is connected to the continued growth in employment with unemployment being at the 30yr low of 5.1%. Somehow strangely the Australian economy is showing signs of age and is declining.

    Contradicting versions of the OECD report show that Aussies are the best paid in the world and also that they are the most taxed of the OECD counrty workers.

    Aussies world's 'best paid'

    WORKERS in Australia are among the best paid in the world and their standard of living has improved over the past eight years, Peter Costello claimed yesterday, citing research by the OECD.

    The Treasurer said the average production worker's income after tax and family benefits was either the highest or the second highest in the world.

    Mr Costello's office compared the latest edition of the OECD's report on how wages are taxed with the report it issued in 1996.

    The OECD compares eight different family types, according to whether the primary earner is single or married and has children. It focuses on people on average earnings, or earning a third more, or a third less, than average earnings.

    In 2004, Australia was highest for four of the family groups, while it was pipped by South Korea for the other four.

    More evidence of Australia's slowing economy

    An index of leading economic indicators for Australia declined to a four-month low in January, adding to signs that growth is slowing in the Asia-Pacific region’s fifth-largest economy.

    The index, a gauge of growth for the next six months, fell 0.3 per cent to 211.1, the lowest since September, Westpac and Melbourne Institute said in a report released in Sydney yesterday. The index tracks nine signs of economic activity, such as share prices and phone installations.

    The A$798 billion economy grew 0.1 per cent in the fourth quarter from the previous three months, the slowest pace in four years, as companies’ stockpiles declined and home building fell.

    Bullish job figures spur rate fears

    The unemployment rate in February held steady at its 30-year low level of 5.1 per cent, while the number of people with jobs increased by 20,000 to 9.9 million people.

    The unexpected lift in employment led several economists yesterday to foreshadow another increase in interest rates next month.

    Treasurer Peter Costello hailed the result, saying it showed there was still some strength in the economy.

    "There is still some oomph there because you are seeing it in relation to the creating of jobs, 20,000 in the month of February," he said.

    Mr Costello said it raised to 325,000 the number of jobs created over the past year.

    Editorial in the Australian on Taxing workers.

    HERE'S a distinction we didn't need. According to the OECD's annual report on the taxing habits of its members, released on Wednesday, "The most significant increases in the personal tax burden are observed in Australia and Iceland". While the income tax take of the 30 OECD countries overall fell during the past eight years, in Australia the average share of income swallowed by tax has increased. Treasurer Peter Costello's claim one of more than 50 tables in the report is misleading because it includes state payroll taxes does not affect the conclusion that Australia is at odds with a global trend. The Howard Government's reputation as one of the highest-taxing outfits in Australia's history – another unsought distinction – is safe.

    There are three important reasons why today's Australian workers are overtaxed. They were exhaustively discussed in The Australian's Too Much Tax series last year, and we have been pressing the point ever since. First, our top marginal tax rate cuts in at only 1.3 times the average wage, compared to an OECD average of 3.1 times. Second, bracket creep, the process by which higher wages push workers into higher tax brackets, has delivered a Government that has had the good fortune to preside over a miracle economy a bounty of billions – we'd know exactly how much, except Mr Costello has banned a Freedom of Information request by The Australian that would reveal the relevant tables.

    Last, and most important, there is the way our welfare payments and family benefits scale down as those receiving them re-enter the workforce or increase their work participation, resulting in effective marginal tax rates as high as 90 cents in every additional dollar earned.

    Michael Costello: It's not clever for a country to rely on luck alone

    AFTER nine years of the Howard Government, the Australian economy looks like it is going back to the days when Australia relied for its survival on digging things up, or growing them, and then selling them to foreigners. Once again, we look like a quarry and a farm to the world.

    This was brought home to me as I read the response of Industry, Tourism and Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane to a question in parliament on Tuesday: "Of course it is the resources sector that is driving Australia's economy, through a major contribution this year alone of $53 billion. In as little as two years that will rise to $82 billion . . ."

    So, just keep digging, keep growing and everything will be just fine. There are at least four problems with this argument.

    Peter Costello: Skills crisis a measure of our success

    In other words, Australia is not in the grip of some unique skills problem. Australia is in the grip of record low unemployment, the likes of which we haven't seen for 30 years. And when unemployment is low it is hard to find labour.

    Australia's present labour shortage is an outcome of sustained economic growth driving Australia's unemployment rate to the lowest level in 30 years.

    Costello wants incentives for jobseekers to relocate

    TREASURER Peter Costello wants people who cannot find jobs near their home to be offered incentives to relocate to places in need of workers.

    Writing in The Australian today, Mr Costello argues that there must be greater encouragement of people to join the workforce.

    "If people can't find work in their current location, the incentive structure should be in place to encourage relocation to areas of labour need," he writes.

    So there it is for the week. Aussie workforce needs more skilled workers. The economy is slowing is still better and Australia needs to design its taxation system better to encourage workforce participation.

    After all this Australians still love their cars better than everybody, except the Americas.

    Aussie love of cars beaten only by US

    AUSTRALIANS love cars as much as Italians and almost as much as Americans, with a survey showing 90per cent of locals aged over 16 own a vehicle.

    The survey of car ownership in 28 nations put Australia just behind the US, which led with 92 per cent, but ahead of other strong car markets such as Germany, Britain and France.

    Italians matched Australians on 90 per cent, while New Zealanders were close behind on 89 per cent.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2005

    Can Australia get smart in India?

    Trever Cook writes in Online Opinion about the possibilities of increasing Australian economic relations with India and expounds on why it is necessary for Australia to do so.

    Without those big mineral resource deposits - particularly coal and iron ore - our per capita standard of living would be more like New Zealand’s. On the other hand, our over-reliance on commodities has been partly responsible for our average incomes falling behind those in many other developed countries in Europe and North America.

    Given our strong historical ties and cultural affinities with it, India would seem to offer Australia its best chance yet to move beyond commodity supplier into a genuinely broad-based integration with an emerging economic powerhouse: Something that might finally break the pattern of our economic past.

    Currently, China is Australia's No.3 trading partner, No.2 export market and No.3 source of imports. India is our 6th largest merchandise export market and 13th largest trading partner. To keep it all in perspective, Japan's imports from Australia are still worth double that bought annually by China.

    India may not exceed the growth rates recorded by China in recent years but India is likely to experience higher growth in the next 20 years while China will struggle to maintain its high growth rates.

    India's well-entrenched democratic institutions may also help it assimilate the aspirations of a growing middle-class far more readily than China, which is yet to show that it can make a successful transition from communism. An India Times editorial in February put it neatly: “It is almost certain that India's economic numbers will catch up with China's soon. It is far less certain whether China will ever catch up with our open society.” Finally, India is already a world leader in some knowledge-intensive industries like information technology and its pattern of development will be very different to China’s.

    Australian exports to India grew by 62 per cent in 2004 (and over 400 per cent in the past decade), reaching A$5.42 billion. Much of this growth, however, has come from India's demand for raw materials, such as gold, coal, copper, wool, and more recently, fresh fruit and vegetables.

    Education, now one of Australia's largest industries, would seem to be our best hope of developing a truly substantial non-commodity export sector. Trade in education services now earns Australia $5 billion annually, more than wool and close to wheat. In addition, Australia is the third-largest supplier of education services to the Indian market, and India is the second-largest market for Australian education. Over 13,000 Indians trained and received education in Australia last year - a 32 per cent increase on 2002. For post-graduate studies, students from India are the biggest group among foreign students in Australia.

    As I mentioned before, Australia needs to start looking at India as a good option for growth in the coming years.

    Indian Students in Australia

    Times of India reports :

    Over the years, Australia has become attractive to students in India as more and more persons want to study abroad, but most do not find entry into US or UK universities because of paucity of seats and also because of stricter entrance rules, including visa rules.

    In 2004, 21,000 students flew to Australia. The number of students flying to US and UK in the same year was comparatively lower at about 17,000 and 15,000, respectively.

    In 2003, about 18,000 students had enrolled themselves in US universities, 10,000 went to UK and 14,400 students went to Australia. Students going to Australia used to be lower than those going to the US and UK in previous years.

    Henry A Ledlie from IDP in Delhi talks about the change in VISA rules :

    The policies have eased a little in terms of its processing. But now the process at the Australian Embassy here can take a longer time as it will now be managed electronically. Earlier the visa process used to take about six weeks of time, now it is advisable to start at least 10 weeks before a student leaves for Australia.

    The Hindu captures the numbers best :

    The recent figures released by IDP Education Australia, a not-for-profit company owned by Australian universities to promote Australian education globally, shows that 12,932 student visas were issued in India in 2004, a 53 per cent increase compared to the previous year.

    Of this, the number of visas issued to those pursuing Masters and Doctorates in Australia upto September 2004 was 7,010 compared to 5,126 issued in the same period in 2003. This makes Indian post-graduate student numbers definitely the largest on campus.

    Of them 45 per cent opted for I.T related courses followed by 31 per cent for business and 13 per cent for engineering programmes.

    The following numbers are the most interesting according to me.

    Indians constitute a significant portion even if the enrolment figures for different disciplines are taken into account: 4,519 students opted for Computer Science and I.T courses; all other international students totalled 6,370. The figures for business management and administration were 3,164 (Indian students) and 22,507. For engineering and surveying the figures were 1,347 (Indians) and 4,139 (other international students).

    41.5% of all international post graduate students in IT and Computer Science courses in Australia are from India. Some 24.5% study other engineering courses. However, the business programs are different. Only 12.3% of the entire post graduate international student population are from India.

    This shows the clear preference for IT courses in India and Indian students. In a sense this is what also made a lot of my family and friends believe that I may not be taking the right step as a large majority of the Indian students study engineering and IT courses.

    The international post graduate student population in Australia excluding Indians is is 33,016 and almost 70% of international students (22,507) study business courses in Australia. Whereas 35% of post graduate Indian students opted for business courses in Australia.

    This clearly shows that Australia is a favoured destination for business courses for International students except Indians. And though I am an Indian I am joining a business course!

    Saturday, March 12, 2005


    Social Networking has been going great guns for last couple of years. Millions of people have joined various networks around the world, some for free and some as paying users, for various reasons. Friends networks, business networks, dating networks, finding our spouse in India are the various types of social networking hapenning in the world.

    Now a team of academicians in the UK have launched academici - The Virtual Academy. This is aimed at academicians, students and academic related businesses to network.

    According to the press release :

    Academics often work worlds apart even when in the same location. University websites have not necessarily been designed to facilitate co-operation. Academici has been set up to promote co-operation across disciplines. Klaas Brumann, Head of Countries at Academici, is convinced that the network will help to overcome these so-called “structural holes”. Mr Brumann points out that a key feature of this network, the fact that membership is free, will facilitate networking for people in higher education and scientific research institutes.

    Dr Jonathan Grix, co-founder of ‘academici’, believes that such software “can function as a form of intranet for local, national or international societies by linking all members of a given society with one another on an interactive platform, thereby producing an on-line community with the potential to generate social capital between members”. The opportunities for cross-fertilisation between academic disciplines and cross-disciplinary collaboration are unlimited.

    The idea of social networking is now entering the rather opague broders of the academic world. It is left to see if the academicians will be open about using this network and sharing their knowledge.

    How to Start a Start Up

    Slashdot points me to this essay by Paul Graham.

    A good summary is provided by SlashDot.

    "Paul Graham has posted a new essay on his website on how to start a startup. According to him 'You need three things to create a successful startup: to start with good people, to make something customers actually want, and to spend as little money as possible. Most startups that fail do it because they fail at one of these. A startup that does all three will probably succeed.' How difficult can that be? So go start them startups."

    Friday, March 11, 2005

    HBS, Hackers and Ethical Issues

    Harvard Business School uses the Apply Yourself website for making it easier for prospective students to apply to the college. In fact I used the website for writing a referral to a colleague for HBS and will be writing another one for Stanford. SlashDot carried a story a couple of days back on how a hacker found a way to know your application status to HBS before the deadline.

    The hacker after finding the hack, posted it on Business Week forums. This set off a series of discussion and 119 applicants decided to check their status. What did HBS do? They rejected all the 119 applicants as this was unethical. MIT and others followed soon. Stanford did not decide on rejecting on all the students.

    Now, was HBS right in rejecting all the students? I would say that Hravard was right. Even though you could explain that the original hacker was the doing the wrong thing, the 119 who followed did actually use a public hack to know their status knowing that this would be wrong.

    Could HBS handle it differently, I think so. However, they would not be wrong in not accepting the students.

    I would like to point to this comment on the SlashDot thread where one of the 119 applicants explained what happened.

    He says:

    People are discussing the posting on the BW forums, with people wondering if the link works or not. People report seeing one of two things:

    1. A ding letter, like the one brookbond saw. (Which is what I saw.)
    2. A blank screen.


    Period, point blank. Anyone who says they did, is lying.

    This is interesting that only rejected offers were shown and all the others were blank. The blank responses could be rejections or acceptances. That we will not know now.

    I liked the way this guy ended his comment on a positive note. I am sure he would get in one of the other schools. No despair.

    Personally, I think the whole thing is a tempest in a teapot. HBS has to reject fully 90% of its applicants. It's easy to grandstand and reject people when you can simply fill the class with other, equally talented people. The "hackers", as long as they didn't make the mistake of checking their status at every school they applied to, will probably all get in somewhere else. By the numbers, only 10 to 15 or so would have made it in anyway.

    Personally, I'm glad I checked my own status. Do I think I'm unethical? I'm willing to bet 90%+ of the people who actually saw the technique and applied to HBS in Round 2 (the round currently awaiting decisions) tried it. Seeing the ding got me off my duff and got me preparing another app to get another iron in the fire. Sitting until the 30th would have been too late. Am I upset that I'm not going to HBS? Of course. But at least I found out sooner, rather than later. Obviously, since I already had the ding letter, I'm not as crushed as someone who saw a blank screen and thus had hope. But they'll move on. HBS will continue to turn out people we can all admire, like Jeff Skilling, and the world will continue turning. No big deal, unless you're a reporter with a deadline and no story ideas.

    And one more thing, this guy is selling FREE the HBS 199 T-shirts. If you want to fund his applications you can buy one!