Canadian embassy strikes end
Canada’s federal government and the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (Pafso) have announced a compromise agreement, signalling the end of a six-month labour dispute that has caused disruption for international education providers in the county and study abroad agents.
Following the tentative agreement, Pafso announced an immediate suspension of all strike measures, which it said has been the longest federal public service strike since the introduction of collective bargaining in 1967. Pafso commenced rotating industrial action at visa offices around the world in April following a dispute over pay for its members. The union has committed to clearing any backlogs caused by the strike.
Language school association Languages Canada welcomed the resolution. Guillaum Dubreuil, Manager of International Affairs and Marketing, said, “Languages Canada is very happy to hear this news, especially as it comes on the eve of the upcoming international trade missions and other promotional activities. We look forward to the situation returning to normal for our members, partners and especially for students looking to come and study in Canada.”
The Russian outbound market in particular was affected by the action. Igor Mishurov, Deputy Director at Students International told STM that although academic students mostly suffered only minor delays, short-term language students were more affected. “Due to the strike we actually lost two groups of high school students (more than 50 kids) and around 30 individual students.” He added that many parents were unable to obtain a visa for visiting their children during study in Canada.
Anna Ryzhova, a Board Member of the Association of Russian Educational Advisors (AREA) specialising in the Canadian market, said in the short-term, Russian agents could be deterred. She reported that one member agency said the visa difficulties were in contrast to the government’s policy to attract more international students, while another advised they could have sent at least twice as many students to Canada this year without the strikes and visa delays.
Ryzhova said the situation could be improved by the Canadian Embassy explaining to Russian study abroad agents the changes currently under way to improve visa processing and allay fears of a repeat of delays in 2014.
CEG acquires Boston Academy of English
Cambridge Education Group (CEG) has announced the acquisition of US language school Boston Academy of English.
The development expands CEG’s international education portfolio in Boston, adding to the CATS Academy international high school, the ONCAMPUS Boston university pathway centre and junior summer camps.
The Boston Academy of English will be incorporated into the Stafford House School of English brand, complementing the portfolio of UK schools in London, Brighton and Canterbury.
In a press release, CEG said Boston Academy of English offered a prime downtown location, premium facilities and a dedicated student residence.Fergus Brownlee, CEO, said, “We can now offer our quality network of partners a full portfolio of programmes in the education capital of the USA. Boston Academy of English will further raise our status as an unrivalled institution of learning, whilst allowing us to provide the finest and most comprehensive range of educational facilities in the city.”
Boston Academy of English was established in 1996 by Marisa and Ken Krall. Both will be remaining in their roles to ensure a smooth transition of ownership.
Stafford House Director, Stephan Roussounis, said, “When we met Marisa and Ken Krall and visited the centre, we knew immediately that this was the right fit for Stafford House, offering the same commitment to quality service, premium facilities and excellent teaching that we constantly strive for.” Bookings from January are being taken.
ATC acquires Winchester School of English
Ireland-based English language provider ATC Language & Travel has announced the acquisition of Winchester School of English in the UK, becoming the group’s third year-round centre.
The courses at the Winchester School of English, located in the county of Hampshire, will continue and include a range of general, intensive, exam preparation and business programmes. The staff will remain and the owners are staying until the end of the year to ensure a smooth transition.
In a statement, ATC said, “The reputation of the Winchester School of English has been built on a foundation of academic excellence in small classes with a very high degree of personal attention. This is just one of the many characteristics that attracted ATC to Winchester when looking for a new home in England.”
Francesca Sluman and Anne Rostron, founders of the school, said they were delighted that ATC Language and Travel would be the new owners. “They understand and respect what we have been doing here and completely share our ethos and philosophy about how to run a good, student-centred school. We have total confidence that Winchester School of English will be more than safe in their hands,” they said in a joint statement.
Escola Inglesa launches new English summer course
Escola Inglesa has announced a new English language summer programme in Portugal through its Take Off Educational division.
Located in Anadia in the centre of Portugal, the courses will provide 15 hours of language tuition per week with qualified native speakers and maximum class sizes of 15 students. Accommodation will be provided at the Hotel Cabecinho, where facilities include a 24-hour front desk, free Wi-Fi and a games room.
A full range of sports facilities and activities such as trekking, horse riding and orienteering are available, while trips to Coimbra, Aveiro and Porto are included in the excursion programme. Escola Inglesa was established in 1990 as a multi-language school and outbound agency.
New Zealand enhances work rights for students
New Zealand has announced a package of measures to support its international education sector, including extending the existing work rights for English language students scheme in Christchurch across the whole country, and a pilot scheme of streamlined visa processing for trusted providers.
From January 2014, English language students on courses of 14 weeks or longer will be eligible to work part-time during their studies with no minimum language proficiency requirement. The work rights privilege is only available to students enrolled at a university or with a provider rated as Category One by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). The measure is an extension of an approach that has been trialled in Christchurch since August 2012, a change that English language providers have been calling for.
Darren Conway, Chairman of English New Zealand, said, “We welcome and are grateful for the new work rights, and we are pleased that it will enable us to broaden the types of market and students we cater for.”
Under the changes, students on courses of one year or more will be allowed to work full-time during all scheduled course breaks, while PhD and Masters by research students will have unlimited work rights, removing the current 20 hours per week limit.
Another change is that Immigration New Zealand (INZ) will no longer grant visas to students applying to study at providers rated NZQA Category Four.
In a move towards streamlined visa processing, INZ will run a pilot scheme during 2014 with around 25 Category One providers in which the institutions will be able to decide, for individual students, whether to offer streamlined and prioritised visa processing or request that INZ undertake the usual assessments. When choosing streamlined visas, providers will take responsibility for ensuring the student has sufficient maintenance funds, has genuine intentions to study, meets course entry requirements and will adhere to visa conditions.
Conway said if the pilot scheme worked, it would bring significant rewards for students, agents, schools and the wider economy. He added, “Agents and institutions will need to screen applications very carefully and responsibly, while INZ will need to make good on assurances of trust.” He said the pilot covered several sectors of the study travel industry, including language schools.
UK charges students for NHS
A new UK Immigration Bill including measures to charge international students for use of the National Health Service and requiring private landlords to check the immigration status of tenants has been introduced.
The most obvious impact on overseas students is a provision that non-EEA nationals with limited entry clearance of more than six months will need to pay a health surcharge as a precondition of entry paid at the same time as visa charges. Under the current system, students are entitled to free healthcare. The surcharge is expected to be around UK£150 (US$240).
“We have been clear that the UK has a national health service, not an international health service. These proposals will ensure that migrants here temporarily make a fair contribution to the cost of health services in the UK,” said Immigration Minister Mark Harper.
In a statement, the Home Office denied the charge would deter students. “Private medical insurance for students and working migrants is a common requirement in many competitor nations, such as Australia and the USA, and the costs there are higher.”
The bill does not state whether a student that took a part-time job and paid contributions through the form of national insurance would be entitled to a refund on the health surcharge, or if a student with private medical insurance would be exempted. The Home Office said a secondary bill would provide more details.
In a letter sent to the Home Office consultation team following earlier proposals, Dominic Scott OBE, Chief Executive of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, said there was no evidence of abuse of the system by non-EU students who have already paid large amounts of money to be in the UK, unlike some other migrant groups.
In an article published on the STM website, Daniel Stevens, International Students’ Officer at the National Union of Students, said non-EU students were a minimal financial burden to the NHS. “If these changes dissuade international students from coming to the UK, it is likely they will result in a far greater loss of income and annul any potential savings.”
Another clause of the bill is that landlords will be required to check the immigration status of potential tenants. Fears have been expressed that landlords would be deterred from accepting international students because of the bureaucracy created.
Jaos working on unemployed project
The Japan Association of Overseas Studies (Jaos) is undertaking a government-approved project to send 400 unemployed young people overseas and help them find work on return.
Commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the scheme will see around 50 members participating. Agents will recruit participants to undertake an overseas internship, working holiday or a language study programme, provide pre-departure and during-trip support, and conduct career development training after students return.
The association will also prepare a report on the one-year project, with the hope that successful implementation will lead to continuing commission from the ministry.