US schools seek clarity on visas for conditional entry
Educators in the USA have raised concerns about draft policy guidelines over bridge programmes and conditional offers that would require separate I-20 visa application documents to be issued for different levels of study.
As previously reported (see STM, February 2013, page 7), the Department of Homeland Security is seeking to tighten rules regarding conditional offers to students that are unable to meet the full criteria to commence degree-level study.
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has now issued draft policy guidance on bridge programmes and conditional admissions, which states that, “A DSO [designated school official] can only issue a Form I-20 to a student who meets all requirements for admission into a programme of study.” Separate I-20 forms would therefore need to be issued for English language preparation or bridge/pathway programmes and the subsequent academic course of study at the college.
Members of EnglishUSA, the association of intensive English programme providers, have raised concerns about the draft guidelines, said Patricia Juza, Immediate Past Vice President for Advocacy, and questioned whether colleges would start to amend their admission criteria as a result of the changes.
According to the SEVP guidance, bridge programmes should be full-time and one year in duration. “There is some concern that SEVP is starting to create educational policy, rather than immigration regulation,” said Juza. “Will schools have the flexibility to provide programming which is in the best interest of individual students?”
English USA has formally responded to the proposals. “We hope that SEVP’s request for feedback is just the first step, and that there will be more opportunity for discussion between SEVP and international educators before the guidance becomes final,” said Juza.
New payment portal for agents
A new secure system for handling fee payments from international students via agents has been launched by global transactions company Uni-Pay.
Agents will be able to use the Uni-Pay service to manage payments from students, whether they are paid via the agent or direct to the institution, and track payments for multiple students to hundreds of institutions. All parties will have visibility of the payment trail and Uni-Pay also provides same-day proof of payment to assist with visa applications.
Britannia Brighton set to open
The opening of Britannia Study Hotel, a new state-of-the-art student residence in Brighton, is confirmed for September 7. Operated by Britannia Student Services, the 134 en suite bedroom residence is only three minutes’ walk from the beach and near to the train station. Special rates are available for agents and schools, and a showroom is now open.
Australia reviews red tape for colleges
A review of regulatory compliance and reporting, which will make recommendations on the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency’s (Teqsa) approach to regulation, has been announced by the Australian government.
“Universities have told us that their administrative burden is too great. We take these views seriously and that’s why we’re taking action,” said Higher Education Minister, Sharon Bird. The review will also evaluate a model of ‘earned autonomy’, where providers with a history of excellence and achievement are largely exempt from reporting requirements.
Rod Jones, CEO of global education provider Navitas, welcomed the announcement. “This new review is a golden opportunity to get it right, to create a system that rewards high-quality higher education providers, while ensuring that adequate regulation is focused on providers that need further support to produce good outcomes.”
Jones said that all education and training providers faced significant regulatory burden and called for the review to extend across sectors. “Any recommendations to reduce the dead weight of unnecessary regulation coming out of this review should also be applied to all education sectors, not just higher education.” He added that the review should also be expanded to include the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), as many educators are multi-sector providers.
Meanwhile, April 2013 data from Australian Education International showed 134,855 year-to-date international student commencements, a 2.9 per cent increase compared with last year, with growth in all sectors except VET.
English UK leads first Libya trade mission
An English UK-led trade mission to Libya has been hailed a success after attracting more than 160 business leaders and 600 prospective students to two days of events in Tripoli.
Twelve English UK members and three training providers participated in the government-funded trip and met with a Libyan government minister and representatives from the oil industry to discuss significant opportunities in the sector.
“It was really worthwhile and exceeded all our expectations,” said Annie Wright, Deputy Chief Executive of English UK, who co-led the trip with Senior International Manager, Jodie Gray. “We just weren’t expecting this much interest, because it was hard to tell how well our publicity had worked and we hadn’t known how far the message would have penetrated. There is clearly huge demand in Libya for all kinds of training, and English language teaching in particular.”
John Paul Smith, Languages for Business Manager of Live Language, Glasgow, was positive about the mission and noted a burgeoning agency market. “I am very glad that the trip went ahead, that my experience there was very positive and that the potential for our industry there would appear to be huge. Students seeking Ielts, General and Business English were all in abundance, and the agency scene appears to be expanding rapidly.”
New International Foundation for CEG
Canadian language provider BEC Group has opened a new school in Montréal, adding to its original centre in the Rocky Mountains. The centre will provide English and French language courses.
“The BEC-Montréal building is newly renovated with modern facilities, yet honours Montréal’s architectural character, with a historic, boutique-style exterior,” said Assistant Director, Derek Keet, adding the major universities, Mount Royal, museums and the main shopping and nightlife districts were nearby.
Explaining the move, Keet said, “When we decided to expand, Montréal was the obvious choice. The city is all about language, culture and education.”
Courses at the school include English communication, an English/French combination, Ielts test preparation, university pathways and French evening classes.
Lauren Hird Rutter, Head Teacher at BEC-Montréal, said, “We are really excited that we can offer quality teaching at both BEC locations. Our lessons have a communicative focus and also work on improving students’ study skills so that they can use their new language right away to accomplish their goals and continue to learn effectively even after their time at BEC is over.”
ABLS looks beyond the UK
The Association of British Language Schools (ABLS) has announced initiatives including a new associate member category.
The associate member scheme is offered to accredited EFL schools based in other English-speaking countries as well as organisations working within the sector, such as insurance providers, airport transfer specialists and payment solution companies.
ABLS is offering associate members exposure at industry events, direct links on the association’s website and the right to use the logo.
Ben Whittaker, Committee Chair at ABLS, said, “Concrete benefits include preferential rates on advertising and trade fairs, and also on goods and services provided by our corporate members. Less tangible, but of huge importance, is the opportunity to attend workshops and networking events, and to be able to call on the professional expertise and experience of fellow members.”
Whittaker added, “In response to enquiries from fellow attendees at international events such as the Alphe and ICEF workshops, there is an indication that organisations appreciating the ethos of ABLS would like to become associated and we have taken this on board.”
ABLS, celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2013, has also established the Above and Beyond training programme in association with the Accreditation Body for Language Services, with topics including working with agents, as well as a new members’ Forum.
News in brief
Ielts reaches two million landmark
The International English Language Testing System (Ielts) reached a record of two million tests taken globally in the year ending April 2013. The figure represents growth of 11 per cent and marks the eighteenth year of consecutive growth in test numbers for Ielts, which is jointly owned by the British Council, IDP: Ielts Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment. Zach Johnson, CEO of Ielts USA, said, “Of the two million tests, the numbers of people taking Ielts to go to the USA continues to grow and all of the top 25 universities accepting foreign students accept Ielts as proof of English proficiency.”
First member for Quality Education
Sterling College in Perth, Australia, has been unveiled as the first member of the new Quality Education brand (see STM, October 2012, page 7). Carolyn Blackmore, Chief Executive, said, “We are absolutely delighted that Janelle Dawson, the Owner and Principal, has decided to take this step and we are sure she will not be disappointed. The college will get the chance to benefit from all the marketing initiatives that the Quality English schools enjoy as Quality Education builds on the success of its language school brand.” She added further colleges are in the application process. Dawson said, “We are very pleased to become the first Quality Education provider. The brand is globally recognised and complements the Sterling College ethos.” Meanwhile, sister organisation Quality English has welcomed new members in recent months: ESE and ETI in Malta, and Languages International in Auckland and Christchurch, New Zealand.
ELS Cape Town becomes Toefl centre
English Language School(ELS) of Cape Town has become an authorised Toefl (Test of English as a Foreign Language) iBT test centre. The move comes just over a year after ELS became an authorised Toeic (Test of English for International Communication) testing centre.
Envisage relaunches student website
Envisage International has announced the relaunch of its flagship portal site. The new site features major improvements to the USA school search for overseas students, a new logo and corporate identity, better integration of social media, a new design and other enhancements.
Eurocentres launches new UK service
my.Eurocentres has been launched as a 24/7 service for UK Eurocentres schools, helping students to develop a study plan, practice English and connect with classmates. It allows current students to access assignments and teacher reviews, multi-media online exercises and a vocabulary app, check the social programme and make a continuing study plan for a month after completing their course.
The Swiss carrier Darwin Airline has opened a new base at the UK’s Cambridge Airport, offering flights to the Netherlands, France, Italy and Switzerland. Operating in partnership with the Italian airline Alitalia, there will be 24 weekly flights to and from Amsterdam, 12 to and from Paris, eight to and from Milan as well as six to and from Geneva. “As we expand within Europe, the UK is a key market for us to further establish and we are delighted to open our new base in the heart of East England,” said Maurizio Merlo, CEO of Darwin Airline. “Cambridge is at the forefront of several business sectors and is spearheading the UK’s economic growth.” The new routes will begin on September 2.
Air New Zealand is slashing the price of a return economy flight to Auckland by 20 per cent for Chinese students who previously studied in the city and are returning to attend their graduation ceremony. With an additional three family members entitled to use this offer, discounted tickets are on sale until September 10 for travel between August 25 and September 20. Customers taking advantage of this offer will need to provide proof that they are attending a graduation ceremony.
Deutsche Bahn (DB), a German railway company providing domestic and international travel services, has received the go ahead from The Intergovernmental Commission (IGC) to launch high-speed services between Amsterdam in The Netherlands, Germany’s Frankfurt and Köln and the UK’s capital city of London. Once scheduled to start this year, the routes are expected to begin in 2016 after repeated delays. Another further hurdle is that the UK is not part of the Schengen agreement authorising the removal of passport formalities between EU member states, and the UK Border Agency is unlikely to allow DB to carry out passport checks on-board. It is possible that when crossing borders, passengers will have to leave the train to go through immigration procedures. However, Eurotunnel has welcomed IGC’s decision, suggesting that the new service could welcome an additional three to four million passengers per year. “This is wonderful news for the millions of passengers in Northern Europe who can now use the most environmentally friendly means of transport to travel to London,” said Jacques Gounon, Eurotunnel Chairman.
The USA’s United Airlines has introduced a new route connecting the US city of Denver with Tokyo in Japan. The daily flight was due to commence in January this year but was delayed due to the grounding of the Dreamliner the aircraft used on this route. Jim Compton, Vice Chairman and Chief Revenue Officer, commented, “We share the excitement with the Denver community and want to recognise the efforts of city and state leaders who worked with us to make the service to Asia from Denver a reality.” Meanwhile, Colorado Governor, John Hickenlooper, said he wanted to make the mountainous state a “dream destination” for Asian tourists.
Korean Air has boosted services to Canada and China, with the existing five-times-weekly route from Korea’s Seoul Incheon Airport to Vancouver in Canada now flying daily. The Seoul to Toronto route has also been increased to a daily service. Meanwhile, the four-times-weekly flight between Seoul and Jinan, in China’s eastern province of Shandong, will also be a daily route until the end of the month to cater for an expected rise in summer traffic.
Marilyn Monroe, George Clooney and Barack Obama make up some of the UK’s fantasy airline crew, according to American Airlines in the UK. In a survey of 1,000 people, Monroe was voted the top fantasy flight attendant from the golden era, with 22 per cent of the vote, while Clooney was the first choice favourite fantasy pilot of all time. In total, 11 per cent of participants would ideally like the President of the USA to fly their plane, while Angelina Jolie received 10.8 per cent of the vote. The survey was conducted to launch the use of a new aircraft on the airline’s London Heathrow to Hollywood route.