|Australian colleges lose ASQA registration
The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), the national regulator for the vocational sector, has announced recently that it has rejected the renewal applications of two colleges, affecting hundreds of international students.
ASQA’s Chief Commissioner, Chris Robinson, confirmed that after comprehensive compliance assessments and multiple site visits, applications from The Ashmark Group, operating as the Ashmark Institute, and G Plus G Global Trading, operating as the Victorian Institute of Culinary Hospitality, have been refused.
The decision applies to the colleges’ status as registered training organisations (RTOs) and on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (Cricos). The decision took effect from October 30 and applied to all courses offered. Robinson confirmed that both organisations had the right to appeal the decision. At the time of writing, it had not been confirmed if either college would activate this right.
“The decision to reject a training organisation’s registration is not one we take lightly but the interests of students and the integrity of training standards across the VET sector have to be upheld,” said Robinson.
ASQA confirmed that the majority of the Ashmark Group’s 900 students on business and automotive management courses, and G Plus G Global’s 400 students were from overseas. Press reports from India indicated that at least 500 Indian students were affected by the closure of the two colleges.
It was confirmed that student protection procedures were in place. “ASQA is working closely with the state government authorities in Victoria and the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education to try to minimise disruptions to student training,” said Robinson.
High Commissioner to India, Peter Varghese, said students would be protected. “If these education providers do close and do not meet their obligations to students, international students will be able to access the Australian Government’s Tuition Protection Service (TPS). The TPS will seek to place affected students in an alternative course or refund any unspent pre-paid tuition fees to the students.”
ASQA has rejected renewal applications from over 20 colleges since July 2011, although not all of those colleges were operating in the international education sector. “Where there is evidence operators are not meeting quality standards we do not apologise for taking strong action, including deregistration. The delivery of high quality training to international students is of particular importance given its impact on Australia’s global reputation,” said Robinson.
English UK holds Jordan fair
English UK brought together delegates from across the Middle East for its Dead Sea Jordan 2012 workshop recently.
Organised by English UK in partnership with and supported by the British Council, UK Trade & Investment and VisitBritain, the English UK Fair attracted 80 delegates, including representatives from member schools and agents from 11 countries.
Hosted at the Jordan Valley Marriot Resort and Spa, the three-day event included scheduled appointment sessions and a seminar programme with information for educators on Jordan and Oman, with a parallel agent programme featuring presentations from the British Council and English UK South West, as well as a Q&A with the UK Border Agency.
Delegates praised the organisation of the programme, the atmosphere and networking opportunities. Steven A’Barrow from Harrow House International College, UK, said, “[It was] superb organisation yet again by the English UK team. It was a great opportunity to get to know agents and competitors better during the follow on events. [It was] one of the most enjoyable business events I’ve ever been on.”
After the fair, 23 delegates took part in an optional overnight Desert Highway tour to Wadi Rum and Petra.The next English UK fair in the region will be hosted in Beirut in 2013 from September 30 to October 3.
BAC launches new accreditation schemes
The British Accreditation Council (BAC) has launched two new accreditation schemes, covering international private institutions based outside of the UK and online/distance learning.
The international centre accreditation scheme is designed for institutions operating outside the UK and offering courses in English. Institutions will need to have been delivering high-quality education and training for at least two years and be recognised by their local or national regulatory body. They will also need to provide testimonials supporting claims of global-quality provision and meet BAC’s stringent tests of probity and financial accountability.
For over ten years, BAC has offered accreditation for overseas institutions linked to a UK university or awarding body, and Dr Gina Hobson, BAC Chief Executive, said the new scheme was a natural extension of that. “We are aware of demand for an accreditation scheme from the UK,” said Dr Hobson. “There is a global recognition of standards and quality in the UK and a desire to replicate those overseas.”
The external recognition of the international centre accreditation scheme is designed to help providers attract students locally and globally and stand out in a competitive market. BAC will inspect management, teaching, welfare and premises, ensuring providers meet standards required in the UK, but within a local context. Achievement in all areas leads to accreditation as an international centre by BAC for three years.
The online, distance and blending learning (ODBL) accreditation scheme, meanwhile, is aimed at providers that are based in the UK and offering courses for national and international students. Dr Hobson said there was a growing trend towards online or distance learning, often blended with face-to-face provision, and that many existing BAC colleges were moving into this sector.
Record Alphe Russia event
The Alphe Russia 2012 conference drew highest-ever attendance figures for both agents and educators in St Petersburg.
The two-day event at the Astoria Hotel, attracted 134 agents from 109 agencies, compared with 115 agents last year. Meanwhile, 99 educators were present, an increase on 84 in 2011.
Satisfaction levels were high at the event. “It was a very productive and informative workshop for me,” said Elena Tumanis from Russian agency KreotoN. “The highlight for our company was to make new ties with universities, institutes and colleges, and also get in touch with partners from all over the world.”
Sue Johns of Kingsway English Centre, UK, said “meeting so many good quality agents” was the highlight of the event. She added, “Saturday was the best day of meetings of any conference, anywhere. I had 17 meetings everyone was good potential.”
Further networking opportunities at the workshop were provided by the social programmes, which included a welcome drinks evening, a dinner in the hotel ballroom, and the Directors’ Club drinks reception.
Marketing English in Ireland (MEI) also hosted a Russia Mini Mission workshop in Moscow to dovetail with the Alphe event, which saw 40 agents in attendance to meet with 17 MEI member schools.
ILSC Sydney in Australia moves to new campus
ILSC Sydney has moved to a new campus in the Central Business District of the city. Situated on George Street inside the iconic Woolworths building and next to the train station, the school is a few minutes’ walk from Darling Harbour and Hyde Park.
The school, which offers English language, university pathway and vocational programmes, is capable of accommodating 270 students in 17 classrooms equipped with plasma televisions. It also has a computer lab and student lounge.
Meanwhile, ILSC Montréal in Canada has launched a new French through Fashion and Design course for 2013.
New Zealand signals visa processing changes
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has announced changes to the way visa applications are processed in the Americas and Europe, with several visa services closing.
Visa services are transitioning from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) to INZ. A new online system, the Immigration Global Management System, is being developed as part of a new global service delivery model, with the first delivery of online applications expected from late 2013.
MFAT visa services in Brasilia (Brazil), Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Santiago (Chile) have now closed and at the end of last month, a Visa Application Centre (VAC) was established in Washington DC, USA, as a receiving office for applications covered by these branches.
Similarly, the European offices in Berlin (Germany), Brussels (Belgium), Geneva (Switzerland), Paris (France) and Rome (Italy) will be closed and from December 10 all applications currently sent to these offices should be sent to the VAC to be established in London from that date.
Any applications lodged prior to November 27 (for the Americas) and December 10 (for Europe) will continue to be processed and assessed as currently. The VACs will provide facilitation services only and will ensure that all required information is provided before forwarding to the relevant INZ branch for processing. VACs have already been established across Asia.
An INZ statement said processing times would be faster under the system. “INZ is committed to improving the customer experience and applicants can expect an improved processing time, despite the need to mail/courier documents to the appropriate VAC.”
INZ also confirmed there would be a cost for using the VAC service, but at the time of writing had not confirmed fees. One fee will be payable per application, regardless of the number of individuals included. INZ also said it was entering discussions with courier companies to see if it could agree discounted rates for sending visa applications to the VACs.
New language school to open in Malta
Ace English Malta is set to open its doors in January as the latest addition to the country’s language school sector.
Situated within the Bay Street Complex in the heart of St. Julian’s, the school will feature 26 classrooms all equipped with interactive whiteboards, chill out areas, a large outdoor terrace, free Wi-Fi throughout and Internet stations.
Programmes at the school will include General and Intensive English, exam preparation for Ielts, Toefl and Cambridge, Business and personalised courses, and English Plus courses. Junior programmes will also be offered. Accommodation options include host families, studios, hotels and self-catering apartments, all within a short distance of the school.
“Ace English Malta is a new breed of a dynamic, learning institution focused on offering specialised courses to meet the demands of students in the 21st century,” said Keith Zammit, Owner and Director. He described the school as, “a brand new premises offering a state-of-the-art finish throughout where attention to detail has been the main focus”. He added, “Students will come with very high expectations. Our aim is to exceed those expectations.”