February 2003 issue

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NZ tightens its industry control

The New Zealand government's Tertiary Education Reform Bill came into effect in January this year, requiring all institutions offering courses for foreign students – including, for the first time, courses of less than three months' study – to be registered with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).
The bill also ushered in an education export levy of 0.5 per cent on all foreign students' tuition fees, which has been hotly contested by many of the well-established English language schools in the country (see Language Travel Magazine, January 2003, page 4).

The government has introduced the bill because it believes that the growing industry needs closer regulation and centralised input. There are signs that the English language teaching market is exploding in New Zealand, with many new language schools registering with the NZQA, according to press reports last year, and many more operating without NZQA accreditation.

Last year, The Press newspaper reported that new applications from language schools were stretching the resources of the NZQA and extending the waiting time for registration as an education provider. 'We've had quite a flood of applications,' said Bill Lennox at the authority. '[At one point], we had 28 language school applications [pending].'

Another newspaper report counted at least 52 English language teaching operations in Christchurch alone, with more operating outside of NZQA jurisdiction. At Education New Zealand, John Sargent estimated that there were 200 language schools in the country that were not NZQA-registered. He pointed out that new legislation was 'a major step forward in ensuring that short courses are included within the quality control mechanisms', but there are difficulties in tracking down illegal operators.

'[They] are a major concern because whereas a number of those unregistered schools are probably doing a good job, there's an equally high probability that a number of them are not and are destroying New Zealand's reputation,' said Sargent. With 26,000 foreign students in New Zealand in 2001, according to Education New Zealand, he estimated a figure nearer 65,000 for 2002.

One concern for quality providers is whether the government has the power to enforce its new legislation. Lennox at NZQA said the authority would act on tip-offs and monitor advertising in its efforts to regulate the industry. Language schools operating outside the remit of NZQA will avoid paying the levy, which gathers funds for industry development, quality assurance and marketing.

Late last year, attention was also focused on the number and spread of overseas nationals entering New Zealand. Immigration Minister, Lianne Dalziel, passed a law increasing the English language ability requirement for incoming migrant workers.

Meanwhile, the Post-Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) called for a five per cent limit on the number of overseas students in secondary schools, saying that the problem of teacher shortages had been exacerbated by high numbers of foreign students.

Open Doors: IEP numbers drop

The latest annual survey of US institutions accepting overseas students, Open Doors 2001/2002, reveals that the number of students enrolled on Intensive English Programs (IEPs) during 2001 dropped significantly, compared with the previous year's survey. This is the first drop in English language students recorded for a number of years.

The number of IEPs in the survey varies each year, and the response rate, compared with the 2000 survey, was unavailable at the time of going to press. While firm comparisons cannot be made, the figures reveal that almost 7,000 fewer English language students were recorded in the calendar year of 2001, compared with the previous year.

These results reveal a problematic year in 2001, which was followed by continued difficulties last year for many IEPs, as education providers have testified. Security and visa concerns since September 11, 2001, have caused some students to choose to study elsewhere, and economic problems in various countries have also dampened student demand. Other language teaching countries are also marketing hard for a larger share of the student market.

In terms of enrolment trends, the big three, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, continued to dominate the Open Doors student enrolment figures, accounting for 47.4 per cent of the 78,521 students recorded. The top 10 countries were similar to the previous year, with the South American countries of Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia following behind the market leaders.

Italy dropped from eighth position to number 11 while Turkey climbed to number eight. Saudi Arabia remained at nine, followed by Thailand.

In the mainstream education sector, international enrolment fared better, rising by 6.4 per cent during the 2001/2002 academic year, matching 2000/2001's increase as the highest growth since 1980. India became the most important source of overseas students for the first time, surpassing China.

Innovation awards for UK

The British Council is running a new awards scheme designed to discover and reward excellence and innovation in English language teaching (ELT). Three awards are in contention and the finalists will be revelead at a high-profile awards ceremony in London in March. The three categories are: UK research into English language learning and teaching; ELT materials; and ELT products and services.

A shortlist of entries has already been chosen and it includes a CD Rom offered by Anglia Polytechnic University, a British life and institutions course via video conferencing offered by Leeds Metropolitan University and resources developed by Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press.

'A lot of the entries exploit the capacity of web-based and multimedia resources to reach wide audiences,' said Cherry Gough, Manager at the British Council. A majority of entries focus on three key audiences: young learners, business people and academic-oriented students.

Winners of the awards will receive a cash prize of UK£1,000 (US$1,579) and recognition in a major campaign to take place this year highlighting the 'cutting-edge' of ELT in the UK. 'We [plan] a major campaign to promote the best of new products and services that we identify through British Council offices worldwide,' said Gough. The entries are to be judged on three criteria – whether they are innovative, effective and practical.

Arels and Baselt plan joint promotion

Two of the key English language teaching associations in the UK, Arels and Baselt, are collaborating to produce a joint brochure, profiling all member institutions as well as other accredited but non-affiliated teaching centres.

The new idea is being ushered in as the English in Britain suite of products ceases to be used by the British Council as its primary promotional channel from April. Tony Millns, Chief Executive of Arels, explained, 'It is expected that the Education UK website will establish itself as the primary resource for web-based information and enquiry handling.'

At least 10,000 copies of a 24-page guide are to be produced and distributed to British Council and British Tourist Authority offices as well as agents on the Arels list.

Julie Hutchinson at Baselt said that respective association members had voted in favour of closer collaboration if there were clear benefits, in areas such as 'international marketing, funding and lobbying in the UK and professional development'.

Latest new student-friendly website for UK

Another new website has been launched in the UK, offering students a 'one-stop shop' where they can find out everything they need to know about living and studying in the UK, with an education area, including a link to the Education UK website – which has a searchable database of UK institutions – links to tourism and visa sites and an area dedicated to life and culture.

The site, www.i-uk.com, was launched last year and developed in association with the British Council. Peter Upton at the Council said, 'We are committed to offering an integrated service to meet overseas demand and to [improve] education and training both in the UK and internationally – i-uk helps us achieve this.'

Shane rebrands as British Study Centres

Two UK English language schools, Shane English Schools Oxford and Brighton, have been renamed British Study Centres (BSC) to reflect the ownership of the organisations.

'[The schools] were franchise operations, owned by British Study Centres,' explained Mandy Green, Managing Director of BSC. 'When Shane formed their strategic alliance with Global Village, we decided to form our own group, managed here in the UK.'

BSC has plans to open a new language school in London in June, near its business school, West London College, to complement its range of vocational colleges and language schools in London, Oxford and Brighton.

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