||Association schism in the study travel industry
Alto, the Association of Language Travel Organisations, which was previously a sub-association of WyseTC (Wyse Travel Confederation), has broken ranks and voted in a new board to oversee its transition to a stand-alone organisation. Meanwhile, WyseTC has announced it is to form a new association for those members involved in the study travel industry and keen to join a sectoral association within the confederation.
David Anthonisz of iAE Edunet in the UK is the new Chairperson of Alto. He told Language Travel Magazine that problems began when WyseTC was created by a merger between Fiyto and ISTC (see LTM, November 2006, page 7). “During the past four years it has become increasingly apparent that Fiyto and ISTC were fundamentally different organisations, and that this was creating a lack of coherent unity within the confederation to the extent that this… was holding back Alto’s mission to provide value and benefit for its members.”
Members of Alto had provided feedback over the last 18 months that the association needed to evolve, reported Anthonisz, and this was translated into three models for future direction that were sent to members for consideration. He explained, “The vision that was overwhelmingly adopted was the one put forward by the former Board during a presentation in Berlin.”
A key distinction of the new-look Alto is that it will be an association for senior-level decision makers only. Alto intends “to further develop and grow the industry through networking, professional development, idea and information exchange”. Primary plans include professional development days for 2011, networking dinners, a brand new website, market intelligence reports and production of a quarterly “industry pulse”.
Anthonisz stated, “Under the newly independent status of Alto, the board is expressly committed to maintaining a lean and effective structure that channels member dues back to its members in terms of value; not one that is weighed down by overly expensive management expenses.” His fellow board members are Andrew Mangion of EC, based in Malta, Andrew Brown of ISIS in the UK and Santuza Bicalho of STB in Brazil.
Meanwhile, Robin Wicks, Director General of WyseTC, has announced that Study Wyse, their new association to target this sector, will broaden its remit in the future to also include higher education. “It’s one of the few if only growing sectors [of youth travel],” said Wicks. “The higher education element is not covered by Alto but represents an important part of the youth and student education industry and therefore reflects strong potential within our community.”
He reported that 80 members attended a meeting about the launch of Study Wyse and he is hopeful to have 50-100 members by early 2011.
As well as a broader focus and the opportunity to network across sectors given the broad youth travel remit of parent association WyseTC Study Wyse will also give members the opportunity to meet regionally and enable access to research relevant to the industry, said Wicks. “We’re spending a significant amount of money on providing research covering all aspects of the youth travel sector with particular emphasis on language travel.”
Japanese streamline visas
In a bid to streamline visa pathways for foreign students, Japan’s Immigration Bureau has announced that it is to merge two visa categories.
Previously international students were required to apply for the ‘pre-college student’ or ‘college student’ visa; typically, students looking to study at a Japanese language school were required to apply for a ‘pre-college’ student visa, and then upgrade to a college student visa upon graduation, should they wish to enter university or a vocational college in the country.
According to Hiroko Yamamoto, Director of Kai Japanese Language School in Tokyo, the new legislation will greatly benefit foreign students as not only are they no longer required to change their visa status if they intend to continue their education in the country, but the ‘college student’ visa enables them to work up to 28 hours a week, compared with the previous 20 hours per week.
Students will also benefit from an extra three months stay in Japan if their study period is more than 12 months.
ELS USA and Canada join forces
ELS Language Centers in Canada has become part of the ELS North American corporate-owned network.
The addition of ELS Vancouver and Toronto to the expanding North America language school brand means the operation now comprises 55 ESL teaching centres throughout the USA 50 of which are university campus-based. “[In] our 50th year it is great to confirm that ELS is the largest campus-based ESL provider in the USA and Canada,” said John Nicholson, ELS Director of Marketing.
Migration cap - another threat to the UK
A limit to the number of students who enter the UK is unavoidable this year, with UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, having announced another public consultation into student visas last year. The government’s declared intention is to bring migrant numbers down to the “tens of thousands” from the current figures of 196,000 in 2009, by capping various routes, including the student visa route with a possible cut of 40 per cent (120,000) being touted in the press.
May announced changes to Tier 1 and Tier 2 migrant routes last year and a consultation into Tier 4 (student visas), which concludes on January 31. It proposes restricting entry to those studying at degree level, but with some flexibility for highly trusted sponsors to offer courses at a lower level. More rigorous inspections for schools, tougher English language requirements (B2 up from B1) and further limiting work experience components of courses are among other proposals.
One ray of light was the subsequent relaxing of rules for the separate Student Visitor Visa category for English language students, allowing up to 11 months study, instead of six months. This route is used by non-EU students with an English level below B1; but this route prevents part-time work or switching visa categories once in country.
Global school chain, Study Group, claimed that any restriction on student numbers would harm the UK’s economy. “The concept of capping student visas to cut net migration is nonsensical roughly the same amount of non-EU students entering each year are also leaving they are, in effect, education tourists,” slammed James Pitman, Study Group Managing Director, HE, UK and Europe. He cited Home Office publication, The Migrant Journey, which revealed that in 2004, only three per cent of students gained settlement rights.
With domestic enrolment unstable given new higher tuition fees, universities in the UK are concerned. Paul Wellings, Chairman of the 1994 Group - established to promote excellence in research and teaching - said, “The government needs to tread carefully and resist any visa caps that keep international students out of UK universities... There are a great many courses below degree-level that do an excellent job in preparing international students for life at British universities.”
USA paves way for quality-linked visa issuance
Following the model of some of its rival destinations within the English language teaching world, the US government has approved a bill which will see only accredited English teaching organisations able to issue I-20s; necessary for students to apply for a visa to study in the United States.
Amazingly, perhaps, until now it has been possible for any educational establishment to accept and teach English to foreign students, and despite the existence of two accrediting organisations for the sector CEA and Accet no third-party quality checks had been mandatory for education operations working internationally. Thanks to much campaigning from sectoral bodies, such as AAIEP, the bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act was approved by the House late last year after approval in the Senate earlier in 2010.
Although a three-year exception rule is likely, it marks the beginning of a legislational environment that aims to thwart bogus colleges the UK adopted a similar policy in 2009. Members of AAIEP were delighted. President, Jeff Hutcheson, said, “This moment is marked by years of work and dedication from many AAIEP colleagues.” orded the ad immediately when we told them about it.”
Australia amends points system and sets up emergency fund
The Australian federal government has announced that it plans to set aside AUS$25 million (US$24.1 million) to protect overseas students from future unforeseen college or school closures.
With the international education sector facing its most challenging year yet, Tertiary Education Minister, Chris Evans, noted that money which had been allocated for the skilled training budget would be redirected to an assurance fund, given that a strengthening Australian economy meant not as much money was needed for retraining.
The money will be made available over two years to protect Australia’s AUS$18 billion (US$17.3 billion) international education industry, which is also suffering from a strong Australian dollar.
The government also announced it is to make modifications to the points-based system which would reflect reforms made to skilled migration last year. “The current weighting of points test factors leads to perverse outcomes such as the situation where a Harvard qualified environmental scientist with three years’ relevant work experience would fail the points test, while an overseas student who completes a 92-week course in a 60-point occupation [such as cookery or hairdressing] would, with one year’s experience, pass,” noted a discussion paper released by the Department of Immigration. It added, “Australia can and should select the best and brightest migrants for independent migration.”
Sea English Academy in global expansion
With EFL, Tesol and Ielts centres in Australia, the USA, the Middle East and Asia, Sea English Academy has opened three more schools in Australia, the USA and the Philippines.
The new Chicago language centre opened for business in August last year, while the Brisbane and Manila branches opened in late November.
Although not the company’s first foray into the US the school conducts a Tesol certificate course in Kalispell, MN the Chicago branch is, according to Director, Kim Edwards, their first official franchise and “full campus” location in the country. The school has already received a number of student enquiries, added Edwards, and with demand for English in North America increasing, “we are considering opening further campuses in America later in 2011,” she said.
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