||International student enrolment in the mainstream education system declined by 2.4 per cent in the 2003/2004 academic year to total 572,509 students, according to the latest report produced by the Institute of International Education (IIE). In the previous year, however, growth stood at just 0.6 per cent. It is widely believed that the English Language Training (ELT) sector is the first indicator of developing trends in the mainstream education market. This is borne out by the 2002/2003 ELT statistics, which revealed a steep 35 per cent decline in enrolment (see Language Travel Magazine, February 2004, page 6). At the time of going to press, statistics for the ELT sector in 2003/2004 were unavailable.
Industry commentators attribute the downbeat results to the US government's hardline visa policy, which has introduced face-to-face interviews for all student visa applicants and generated a perception among international students that the USA is an unwelcoming or unwilling study destination.
Patricia Harrison, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, commented, ''The temporary decline in student numbers relates to a number of factors, including the need to make sure our borders are secure, but I am confident that both the situation and the numbers will improve.''
IIE pointed out that visa issuance had increased in the period from January to June last year, compared with the same period a year earlier, which Harrison noted as a ''good sign''. Allan Goodman, President of IIE, pointed to competition from other countries and rising tuition costs in the USA as additional relevant factors behind the decline in numbers.
''It is clearly in America's long-term national security interest to welcome international students to come here to study,'' he said, echoing the views that have been championed by many university departments in the past year. He pointed out that international students help broaden US students' perspectives, are beneficial to the local economy and ''contribute to vital research activities''.
In terms of the nationality breakdown recorded across the 572,509 students that figured in the survey - which was undertaken by canvassing over 2,700 institutions, with a response rate of 88 per cent - India remained the leading country of origin, accounting for almost 14 per cent of total international students. It was followed by China, Korea and Japan, of which China and Japan's market share showed a decline year on year. The other top Asian source countries of Taiwan (sixth), Thailand (ninth) and Indonesia (10th) also recorded negative growth rates.
UK schools to be linked up overseas
British Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, has announced that he wants every school in the UK to be twinned with a school overseas within five years, to promote global citizenship and encourage language learning. The planned links would be established via the Internet Global Gateway, which has been developed by the government in tandem with the British Council.
Clarke's International Strategy for Education, Skills and Children's Services also mandates encouraging possibilities for further and higher education students to study and work overseas, implementing the national languages strategy that encourages study at a younger age, and a goal to encourage education and training providers to work internationally in partnership with business. ''In short, we are putting the world into the world class standards to which we aspire,'' said Clarke, who also wants to promote the role of universities as international hubs for learning and research, and pioneer the use of information and communication technology in education.
''Our vision is that the people of the UK should' live in and contribute effectively to a global society and work in a competitive, global economy,'' he stated.
EFL Services rebrands and expands
UK company EFL Services, which is responsible for the English in Britain media services including the website, brochure and CD-Rom, has rebranded as International Education Connect (IEC) to reflect its expanded portfolio of business interests since it acquired a controlling stake in the Digital Education Network (DEN).
It has also expanded its recognition of accreditation bodies that provide bona fide quality certification, whose members can be included in its English in Britain portfolio. From now on, schools accredited by the British Council, ABLS, the British Accreditation Council (BAC), Eaquals and the British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes (Baleap) can be promoted via IEC.
David Blackie, Director of the company, said, ''This policy, which harmonises with the positions of [UK government departments] and VisitBritain, will take English in Britain forward to better meet the needs and aspirations of students, agents and advisers worldwide.''
DEN provides an online directory for the language training sector and its link-up with IEC will provide improved ratings on search engines, according to Blackie. A new website is also being developed by IEC to partner English in Britain. The website, Colleges in Britain, will be launched in early 2005 and both websites will be accessible via www.ie-connect.com.
IDP in cash crisis
IDP Education Australia, the not-for-profit student recruiting operation owned by Australian universities, has hit cash-flow problems and lost eight key staff in the last year. According to press reports, it is considering options such as becoming a commercial venture in order to maintain profitability.
Some education sectors in Australia are experiencing a slow down in international enrolments and as a result, IDP, which has 90 offices in 50 countries, was expected to post a AUS$1.6 million (US$1.2 million) loss in December.
President of the IDP board, Lance Twomey, told The Australian newspaper that the US office of IDP was closing and some others would follow suit. ''We've got to take a somewhat different approach to the way in which we've worked with IDP in the past,'' he said, suggesting that other shareholders could be brought in to make IDP a commercial company.
Irish universities are reported to have already approached IDP about such a move, which would undoubtedly have an impact on the agency market. Albert Lee of association, Tosa, in Taiwan said that he had no objection to IDP becoming a commercial venture, but his concern was that IDP would not spell out its commercial basis and that students would be misled about its status.
English [Out There!] expands reach
English [Out There!], a teaching concept that has been put into practice in London, UK, for three years now, is expanding to a number of other countries around the world. English language schools in New Zealand, South Africa, the USA, Malta and Canada will offer the concept from this year, while Italian and Spanish [Out There!] will also be launched in Florence, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid and Seville.
The teaching style, which takes students out and about and encourages learning through action and real-life practice, is to be licensed to more language schools. Founder Jason West said he was hoping to increase the reach of the [Out There!] product while limiting the availability to one school per city location.
''We hope to create a large network of licensed course providers and become the first name that people think about when taking a short language holiday,'' said West. ''We consider [Out There!] to be an effective product that is more accessible to conventional travellers and tourists.''
Irish trade mission to Korea, Japan
In a bid to strengthen links with Korea and Japan, education industry representatives in Ireland took part in a trade mission to the two countries in November last year. Led by Michael Martin, Minister for Trade and Employment, the mission involved 11 tertiary education institutions and four English language schools.
According to the Irish Times, only 150 international students currently come from Japan or Korea. Enterprise Ireland, which organised the mission, wants to expand recruitment efforts in these markets and enable the education sector to depend less on India and China - doubling the revenue generated by overseas student income by 2008.