|Sol Group opens Vancouver school and leaves International House
Sol Schools International has announced that its fourth school will open in Vancouver in September. As a result, the North American-based group has disaffiliated from International House World Organisation (IHWO).
The Vancouver school will be located on Water Street in the famous Gastown area of the city. The new centre will join the original Sol school in Toronto established in 1996 and the more recently added centres in Calgary (2008) and Miami Beach (2011).
On the disaffiliation from IHWO, Houman Nikmanesh, Chief Executive Officer of Sol Schools International, said, “These immediate and future plans have arisen due to the demands from our students and partners to duplicate our unique offering in additional locations across North America. Unfortunately, these plans do not align with the terms and conditions of IH affiliation agreements we hold in our other locations, and following open discussions the decision has been made for Toronto, Calgary and Miami Beach to continue trading as Sols Schools International without being affiliate members to IHWO.”
In a statement, IHWO said that as the expansion involved opening schools in the territories of other IH schools, disaffiliation was the only option, but added that the decision was reached with goodwill on all sides. Lucy Horsefield, Chief Operating Officer of IHWO, said, “The Sol Group has grown significantly since joining International House, expanding from one school in Toronto to three schools. We are, of course, sorry to lose these schools but our policy on International House ‘territories’ has always been very clear. Houman Nikmanesh and his team have been valued members of our organisation and we wish them all the best.”
Auckland based school collapses
Oxford International Academy (OIA), an Auckland-based college for international students, has gone into voluntary liquidation, leaving around 150 students looking for replacement courses.
The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) has confirmed that students are protected by the Student Fee Protection Policy, meaning they have the option to either claim a refund corresponding to the undelivered portion of their course, or enrol with an alternative provider at no additional cost. Students transferring will need to apply for a variation of conditions to their visa.
OIA, which offered courses in design, business and computing, had been unable to mark students’ work following a NZQA review in January. NZQA concluded it was not confident in educational performance and not confident in the school’s capability in self-assessment. Excessive examples of plagiarism and poor attendance were highlighted.
In other New Zealand news, South Island educators outside of Christchurch have been told by the government they will not be able to access the NZ$5 million (US$3.85 million) funding set aside to reverse declining international student enrolments in the aftermath of last year’s earthquake. The University of Otago had expressed an informal interest about Dunedin providers accessing the funds, arguing that the wider region had also been affected. However, Education New Zealand has reportedly said the funds will not be used outside Christchurch which suffered a 37 per cent decline in international enrolments during 2011.
Eurocentres adapts school network
Eurocentres, a language training provider spanning five continents, plans to adjust its network of schools in 2013. A number of Spanish language programmes will be offered in Spain as well as in Latin American countries, and there are also plans for courses to discontinue in Perth, Australia; Auckland, New Zealand; and in Marbella, Spain.
In terms of network additions, courses will be offered in Cuzco, Peru, from January 1. Additionally, in Madrid and Seville, Spain, and in Argentina’s Buenos Aires, Eurocentres will offer Spanish programmes in partnership with Babylon Idiomas schools.
Gaby Billing, Head of Marketing, said, “English and French have been in demand for years, and Eurocentres is now expanding its network in order to meet demand for Spanish language courses. Eurocentres is the only chain of schools that teaches eight different languages.”
While courses based in Perth, Auckland and Marbella will no longer be part of the Eurocentres programme network, the partner schools will continue to operate. Billing commented, “Over the past few months, we have studied the market and its needs closely and have adapted our network of schools accordingly. We hope that these additions to our network will further strengthen Eurocentres’ position.”
Recently, Eurocentres has also established a new school in San Diego, California, USA, and spring 2012 also saw the launch of programme offerings in the Australian cities of Sydney and Melbourne, in partnership with Performance English.
UK struggling to recoup loans to EU students
The UK is struggling to recover tuition loans to students from EU countries, according to the release of figures by the Student Loan Company (SLC), the government-owned organisation that administers the loan system.
EU students became eligible for tuition loans for university study in the UK in 2006/07, and the data, covering England only, reveals that 27 per cent of borrowers from the 2010 graduate cohort around 1,700 students are categorised as “Repayment status to be confirmed”, meaning they are not currently repaying and SLC has no details on their current working and residence status. Only two per cent of overall borrowers including domestic students from the 2010 cohort fell into this category.
A further 10 per cent (600 students) are known to be resident overseas but have not provided employment details and have been placed in arrears. The 2010 cohort is significant as it the first group of students that took the loans for full degrees and are now liable for repayment. Of the 2011 graduate cohort, around 3,000 students (33 per cent) are in the “Repayment status to be confirmed” category, with a further 700 known to be abroad and placed in arrears.
For students that remain in the UK to work, repayments are taken automatically through the tax system when a salary is above the repayment threshold of UK£15,000 (US$23,100). Around 700 EU students from 2010 made repayments through this method in the last financial year, while a further eight per cent were working in the UK but below the threshold. Approximately 600 have fully repaid loans ahead of schedule.
SLC has said that it is looking to pursue loans more vigorously. A spokesperson told The Telegraph, “We are currently in the process of reviewing accounts of both UK and EU borrowers who are known to reside overseas and who are in arrears, with a view to issuing legal proceedings against those who do not respond to the initial letters.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said, “The majority of overseas borrowers are honest and want to repay the loans they have received. However, all borrowers need to know they cannot evade their obligation to repay simply by moving overseas.”
According to the statistics, UK£2.1 million (US$3.2 million) in repayments was collected during the 2010/11 financial year from the 2010 cohort of EU borrowers. At the end of 2010/11, the total amount of debt for this group stood at UK£35.9 million (US$55.3 million).
Mayfair launches vocational training programme
Mayfair School of English (MSE) has introduced a course that combines academic qualifications with vocational training at international companies in London.
Since 2009, MSE has been running university pathway programmes in Business Management, Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Management and Marketing Management at levels 4, 5 and 6.
MSE is now offering an Integrated Work Placement as part of the ABE syllabus. The placements are delivered concurrently, allowing students to follow the academic and vocational programmes at the same time, with 15 hours per week dedicated to each element. Vocational placements are available in Culinary Management, Food and Beverage Management, Front Desk Operations and Back Office Operations. The programmes are internationally accredited by the Association of Business Executives (ABE) the only vocational courses in the UK to hold this distinction leading to recognition at over 100 universities globally.
Duncan Watson, Director and Principal at MSE, said, “We believe in the future, tertiary education will be defined by two words: ‘international’ and ‘relevant’. Our new integrated Academic and Vocational Pathway Programmes, developed in partnership with ABE, allow students to build a composite international university education combined with meaningful professional experience.”
Mayfair School of English was established in 1986 and is located on Oxford Street in Central London. The school also offers General English, Business English and exam preparation classes.
Research shows changes to pathways in Australia
An increasing percentage of international Elicos students in Australia are moving into higher education in the country, according to research released by Australian Education International, although pathways into the vocational (Vet) sector declined.
The annual paper, Study pathways of international students in Australia, is based on student visa students, and shows 35 per cent of those that completed an Elicos course in 2010 went directly into HE, compared with 27 per cent the previous year. However, the percentage moving directly into the Vet sector declined from 33 per cent to 20 per cent.
Including direct and indirect pathways, 40.1 per cent of 2010 Elicos completing students ended up in HE, an increase over 31.8 in the previous report. Among individual nationalities, 71.6 of Chinese Elicos students moved into HE, up from 66.5, while only 46.6 per cent of Indian Elicos students moved into Vet, down from 83.3 per cent in the previous survey.
Sue Blundell, Executive Director of English Australia, said, “Obviously one of the clear messages is that the Elicos sector plays a significant role in preparing students with the English language skills necessary for study in other sectors. This emphasises the importance for universities and other further education providers of monitoring student numbers in our sector as this will indicate future trends for them.”
Blundell said that the increasing pathways to HE reflect previous reforms to migration routes, meaning students became more likely to move to different courses to improve eligibility, adding that this is also reflected in the current unusual trend of onshore visa applications outnumbering offshore. Noting that Elicos only students increased from 31.1 to 34.2 per cent, Blundell said, “When you add these numbers to the tourist and working holiday numbers you can see that the sector is not just about pathways.”
Hollande keeps promise to repeal tougher post-study rules
The new French President, François Hollande, has fulfilled a pre-election promise to reverse a controversial circular that restricted post-study work rights for non-EU students.
In May 2011, Claude Guéant, the then Interior Minister, issued a directive that asked for requests from graduates to transfer to work visas to be more vigorously considered, while tougher financial conditions were also introduced (see STM, March 2012, page 12). The directive led to opposition from academics, businesses, students and politicians.
Guéant’s predecessor, Manuel Valls, annulled the circular from the end of May and said all exisiting applications submitted prior to then would be examined under the new rules.