All institutions in New Zealand that accept overseas students, including English language schools, are likely to have to pay a new levy on student fees received to fund a comprehensive quality assurance initiative, it was announced earlier this year. Schools and universities in New Zealand reacted with dismay to the news and complained that it punished those institutions that were doing well in the international marketplace.
The country's Ministry of Education said the levy -likely to be 0.5 or one per cent of fees received - will raise money to be used to promote research, professional development and industry-wide promotion. 'The industry and government have concerns around ensuring growth [in enrolments] is balanced and sustainable, and that New Zealand maintains its reputation in education,' said the Ministry in a statement. 'Development of the industry has been hampered by market failure... resulting in under-investment in activities that benefit the industry as a whole.'
The Association of Private Providers of English Language (Appel) - a new grouping of English language schools that combines the membership of associations Fiels and Crels - told the New Zealand Herald that there was no evidence of the 'market failure' cited. Education export was a major success, it said, and quality issues were dealt with via the new code of practice and New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) audits.
Some of the funds, which will be collected from January 2003, will be spent on the administration of the new code of practice for the pastoral care of international students, which was introduced in March and becomes compulsory in September.
'[The tax] is going to be bad for people who export education,' argued Frances Woolcott of Appel. She said that a levy of one per cent of tuition revenue would equal 10 to 20 per cent of profit for some operators, forcing some to make marginal profit or even a loss. Claiming that no school supported the levy, Woolcott added, 'We are already contributing large amounts of money to the government in the form of GST [goods and services tax], PAYE [tax on earnings] and company profits.'
Lester Taylor, Chief Executive of Education New Zealand (EdNZ), acknowledged that the majority of providers did not favour the levy. 'Response has been mixed, with a majority opposed,' he said. 'Strongest opposition has come from the university and [private] sectors. The polytechnic and school sectors have been more accepting but with some reservations.' He said that EdNZ agreed in principle with the levy but argued that the government should be made to match any revenue raised, as the entire country benefited from the industry's earnings.
If the levy is passed by Parliament, schools can expect to see initiatives such as institutional and resource development, core generic marketing - including further development of the MyNZed.com website - industry-funded scholarships from 2004 and a grant to over their voluntary subscription to EdNZ.
Canada loses market share
Although the number of international students in Canada reached a record high in 1999/2000, according to the latest National Report on International Students in Canada, published by the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE), some sectors of the industry recorded a drop in international enrolments and student intake from Asia dwindled. The results have led the CBIE to call for a national policy on international education.
'Economic recovery has come to most of Asia. Globally, more students are on the move,' said a spokesperson for CBIE. 'Canada needs a national strategy to give us a boost in the international education arena and allow us to regain our status as a key player in the hosting of international students, from all regions.'
University undergraduate programmes fared well, experiencing a 30 per cent increase in student enrolments. However, graduate level enrolments stagnated and some markets, such as Asia, declined. Asia was the top source region for overseas students, but CBIE noted that there were 6,000 fewer Asian students in 1999/2000 than ten years previously. Overall, in 1999/2000, there were 106,068 students from 207 countries in Canada, excluding those studying for under three months.
For the post-secondary sector, overall student numbers were estimated to be 58,845 - placing Canada in sixth position as an overseas study destination, closely followed by Japan. CBIE estimated that the USA, UK, Australia, France and Germany all attracted more students.
Test fraud discovered around the world
at the last count, 75 people had been arrested in the USA as federal agents working for the FBI, the US Postal Inspection Service and the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) uncovered a Toefl fraud ring.
A number of individuals were allegedly receiving funds in order to take a Toefl test for foreign students who lacked the appropriate level of English language needed to gain entrance into a higher education institution. Two test-takers, Mahmoud Firas and Begad Abdel-Megeed, were estimated to have taken at least 50 Toefl exams each. Many others were involved in the scam, as warrants have been issued for 160 people.
The fraud ring worked by imposters taking the test and posing for the photograph required and then requesting that the results be sent to a particular address. When the results were sent to this location, a photograph of the actual student requiring the Toefl score was substituted and the results were forwarded to schools in a fake Educational Testing Service (ETS) envelope.
ETS alerted the authorities to the scam and said it was pleased with the arrests made across 13 states. 'We will continue to cooperate as this case proceeds in the hope that this will send a warning to those that subvert the system and take the places of honest international students,' said the company in a statement.
In Australia, similar fraudulent problems have been uncovered. A police raid in Sydney revealed a printing press equipped to issue fake Ielts test certificates, according to a report in EL Gazette. In response to fraud concerns, the three organisations that own Ielts - IDP Education Australia, the British Council and the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (Ucles) - have introduced new security features such as tamper-proof paper, and online checking of candidates' results is expected to be available soon.
Toefl test centres worldwide to close
The Educational Testing Service (ETS), which runs test-taking centres around the world for academic and language proficiency exams such as Toefl and the Graduate Management Admission Test (Gmat), is closing 84 of its 195 overseas computer-based testing centres.
ETS said it was reorganising its international operations and closing those centres that had low testing volumes. Instead, handwritten tests will be made available at local schools, universities and advising centres in the affected areas, the company said.
Closures began in April this year and will continue until June 2003. Those cities affected are in many countries, from Bordeaux in France and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to Chiang Mai in Thailand and Nagoya in Japan. 'Our research shows that 80 per cent of our international test-takers are being served by 20 per cent of our centres,' said ETS President, Kurt Landgraf. 'ETS cannot continue to operate centres without takers to support them, so we're centralising operations at nearby universities and schools.'
Novosibirsk in Russia is one city that has been affected. 'Toefl tests were rather popular among our students and the fact that the [testing] centre was located here made the situation easier,' said Natalia Sagaidak at Benedict School. She said she hoped that students would not have to go to Moscow for the test as 'especially in case of failure, [students] will have additional problems with re-taking the test'.
Landgraf at ETS said that the company remained committed to computer-based testing as an 'effective delivery method' and that new online services and products would be introduced soon. The 'next generation' of Toefl is expected to be launched in 2004. For students taking Gmat, a mobile computer-based service is to be offered. Less than one per cent of Gmat tests will be delivered as a handwritten test.
China is no.1 student exporter
A report released by the Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation of the United Nations (UN) indicates that China is the premier source of international students in the world, with 25,000 full-time students studying abroad each year.
The UN points to Singapore as the most popular overseas study destination for Chinese students, attracting up to 15,000 students at present. The China Daily newspaper reported that students find courses easier to study in Singapore as they are taught bilingually.
'Singapore enjoys a favourable geographic location where western and eastern cultures meet,' said Wong Yongli at China's Embassy in Singapore.