Student visas suspended at four schools in New Zealand
Four Private Training Establishments (PTEs) in New Zealand have had their student visa applications suspended, following a joint operation by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) and Immigration New Zealand (INZ).
INZ said that the National Institute of Studies (Auckland, Tauranga, Otahuhu and Christchurch), Edenz Colleges (Auckland and Tauranga), Aotearoa Tertiary Institute (Otahuhu) and the New Zealand School of Business and Government (Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington) were non-compliant in their obligations to international students. INZ said that the suspensions would not be lifted until the institutions were fully compliant.
INZ General Manager, Peter Elms, said the breaches were serious and included students studying less than the minimum 20 hours per week, misleading or poorly maintained attendance records and fee discrepancies. NZQA has also issued compliance notices against all four PTEs for failure to deposit student fees in full into their Student Fee Protection trust accounts and/or keep accurate student records.
At the time of the announcement, a total of 842 international students were enrolled at the four institutions. They were unaffected by the suspension, which only impacts on new visa applications, and can continue their studies.
Officers from INZ and NZQA made a number of unannounced visits to the providers. “It is concerning that the PTEs have been operating in a manner that falls well below minimum standards and, in doing so, jeopardising the quality of the education provided to their international students,” said Elms.
If the four PTEs fail to comply with obligations, NZQA has the power to impose further conditions or even cancel registrations.
Payback for students at Hershey plant
The US Department of Labor has recovered over US$213,000 in back payments for international students that worked at a warehouse packaging Hershey’s candy for below the minimum wage levels.
The money will be paid back to 1,028 international students employed in positions at the plant in Palmyra, PA, via the Summer Work Travel programme between October 2009 and November 2011. An investigation found federal minimum wage and overtime violations, as well as safety and health violations.
The Department of Labor said in a statement, “The department’s Wage and Hour Division investigation found violations of the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act as a result of excessive housing costs charged to the students employed at the Palmyra facility.”
The wages will be paid back by three companies: Exel Inc., which owns the warehouse; the SHS Group, LP, which placed students at the site under contract with Exel; and the Council for Education Travel-USA, which acted as the students’ sponsor, and subsequently had its sponsor designation terminated. Fines of US$143,000 for health and safety violations were also issued to Exel.
Hershey had no direct involvement with the students.
London’s Mayor questions UK visa stance
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has urged the UK government to protect the capital’s status as a leading global centre for education, during a trade mission to India.
Recent changes to visa policy such as limiting the Post-Study Work visa route may be damaging the city’s reputation and economy, Johnson said, “The policy on visas is, in my view, sending the wrong signal. There are so many stipulations that we are starting to lose business to Australia, America and Canada.
“As Mayor, I will do all I can to promote London as a place that is open for business and open to the brightest talent in the world. International students not only bring bright ideas that cement the reputations of our leading universities, they have huge spending power that boosts the UK economy.”
He said he had written to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, urging them to remove students from the government’s net migration targets and introduce better protection for students if their sponsors lose a license.
According to the Office of National Statistics, 210,921 student visas were issued in the year to September 2012, a fall of 26 per cent. Fewer students arrived to study in the year to March 2012, 213,000 compared with 232,000 previously.
Pace announces new centre in Ireland
The new Pace Language, Sport & Music Summer Centre will be located at Castleknock College for 2013, near Dublin city centre, Ireland.
“Castleknock College is recognised as one of Ireland’s elite private schools and is famous for its stunning Georgian architecture and modern sporting facilities,” said Evin Delaney, Pace Director. The college is located on 70 acres of grounds, with 10 acres dedicated to sports, including several rugby pitches, football pitches and tennis courts. There is also a fully equipped music room, gymnasium and newly installed weights room.
Both residential and host family accommodation options will be offered. Professional sports programmes include football, rugby, tennis, golf, horse riding and strength and conditioning. Courses for 2013 will commence from June.
“We wanted to offer something different, a summer centre that not only offers the highest standards in English tuition but also in music tuition and professional sports coaching, all in one location,” said Delaney.
Overseas students win lawsuit against Canadian college
A group of international students have won a lawsuit against George Brown College in Toronto, Canada, after claiming that the institution misrepresented the industry certifications on offer through one of their programmes.
The eight-month International Business Management course offered in 2007 claimed that it would allow students to complete three industry designations/certifications in addition to the school’s graduate certification.
However, the course only prepared students to pursue the designations, and students needed to pay extra fees to complete the courses. Although the college argued students that did due diligence and research would know that the college was only providing preparation, Ontario Superior Court Judge Edward Belobaba said the description “could plausibly be interpreted as meaning exactly what it said”.
Belobaba added, “Having paid a substantial tuition fee and related travel and living expenses, [students] could not afford the additional time or money needed to pursue the three accreditations on their own.” The amount of damages to be paid will be decided at a later court hearing.
The judge also stated that this one “careless” mistake should not damage the reputation of the school. After the original complaints, George Brown College arranged reduced fees for the affected students and clarified course descriptions. The college declined to comment on the ruling.
Language school associations sign declaration
Thirteen language school associations have signed up to a declaration on student mobility drafted by English UK.
The document calls on governments, agencies and institutions to promote the desirability of study abroad and international student mobility through all available means and encourage student exchange schemes. It also calls for visa systems to be structured to facilitate mobility by reducing cost and complexity, and for students to be treated as temporary migrants outside of any net migration counts.
Other measures include urging bodies to deliver programmes through institution partnerships, ensure that high school leavers have competence in a foreign language, and establish a forum or agency under the United Nations to act as a champion of international study.
Organisations that have signed the declaration are: English UK; Quality English (international); ABLS (UK); British Educational Travel Association (UK); MEI (Ireland); Fedele (Spain); Souffle (France); Feltom (Malta); AEPLE (Portugal); English Australia; English New Zealand; Education South Africa; and Ialc (international).
F+U Academy of Languages expands in Germany
F+U Academy of Languages has opened a new school in the German town of Darmstadt, near Frankfurt am Main, adding to its original location in Heidelberg.
The school occupies a freshly renovated historical building in the city centre, within walking distance of the city’s main railway station, and will feature eight classrooms, a computer room, a library and a student lounge.
Courses in more than 20 languages are offered at the school, as well as computer programmes and a range of leisure activities. The school will also operate as a test centre for a number of language exams.
Karl-Heinz Rippel, Director of F+U Academy of Languages Heidelberg, said Darmstadt was renowned as an academic city. “Darmstadt is a very welcoming environment for innovations in any field, be it science, culture or business. It is home to numerous institutions of research and education, like the renowned Technical University (TU) Darmstadt.” He added the academic traditions of the city would present an opportunity for the academy. “The demand for specialised courses, for example from prospective engineers from the TU, is guaranteed to be high,” he added.
F+U Academy of Languages Heidelberg hosts around 7,500 students from 120 countries each year, and is part of the F+U Group, which was established in 1980 and is one of Germany’s largest education providers.
New logo for Education New Zealand
Education New Zealand (ENZ) the agency for the promotion and representation of New Zealand education around the world has changed its logo to align with the New Zealand fern symbol used by other government agencies. ENZ was established in 2011 and said the fern logo was used by other agencies to ensure New Zealand maintains a consistent look and feel when represented offshore. The rebrand will be rolled out across all of ENZ’s corporate templates.
News in brief
UK work rights for Croatian students
In a statement of intent regarding Croatia’s accession to the EU in July, the UK government has stated students will be able to engage in part-time and vacation employment without requiring work authorisation, providing they have obtained a registration certificate from the UK Border Agency confirming they are exercising a treaty right as a student.
Rebrand for ExpoBelta event
From 2013, ExpoBelta, the study abroad event organised by the Brazilian Education & Language Travel Association, will be rebranded as Feira do Intercambista. Belta President, Carlos Robles, said, “With the new name and format improvements, we will work closer to our audience, managing to make available as much quality information so that the student can choose where to study abroad.” The two-day 2013 event will take place from March 2.
Serbian language school opens
Lingua Serbica has opened as a specialist Serbian language school in Belgrade, offering summer school programmes for all age groups and specialist courses for international students intending to attend academic courses in Serbia and for foreign employees based in the country.
Australia negotiates work and holiday visas
Australia has commenced negotiations with the governments of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Latvia, Poland and the Slovak Republic on establishing reciprocal work and holiday visa arrangements, the Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, announced.
35th anniversary for FDSV
German association FDSV (Fachverband Deutscher Sprachreise-Veranstalter) has recently celebrated its 35th anniversary. Julia Richter, Managing Director at FDSV, said the association of language travel operators had grown over the last two years and now had 25 members. “We optimistically look forward to upcoming years. The language travel industry is a growing market, due to globalisation, the growth of Europe and the high linguistic requirements in commerce.”
Through its former BMI slots at Heathrow, British Airways (BA) is launching long-haul services between London Heathrow Airport and Seoul ‘s Incheon International Airport in South Korea and will add a route to North America. Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of parent company IAG, revealed that the carrier is in negotiations with several Asian airports about new routes, adding, “Our focus is on growth markets from Asia into Europe... There is a significant opportunity to increase our Asian presence in a profitable way.” Walsh also commented that North America is an important growth market for the airline, and BA promised that it will start focussing on short-haul flights later this year.
In other BA news, the carrier has gained permission from the Civil Aviation Authority to allow long-haul passengers to use in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens “from the second they reach their seat to the moment they arrive at their destination” after nine months of negotiations. It is the first UK carrier to relax restrictions on such flights; customers on other UK airlines have to wait until take off before the IFE system can be used. “Everyone can watch the IFE during the boarding process,” said a spokesperson for the airline, adding, “but due to safety regulations [a handful of] customers will still have to stow their video screens (and iPads) from completion of the safety briefing until after the take off and for approach and landing”.
Finnair has introduced five new ticket types across its economy and business class offerings, to “improve clarity in ticket pricing and offer to all segments of customers” as the airline explained. Available now, these new ticket types include basic, value, pro, business saver and business. Additionally, the carrier has made changes to its loyalty scheme, with point accruals moving from a kilometre-based to a region-based calculation. “Customers are expected to gain approximately 30 per cent more points than ever before,” said the airline.
AirAsia X will start direct flights between Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Malaysia and Shanghai Pudong in China from February 19, and the flight frequency will increase from six-times weekly to daily from May 1. The airline is also looking to increase flight frequencies on a number of routes in the Asia-Pacific region from July onwards, and the airline’s expanding network is also boosting KLIA’s reputation as a transit hub.
Eurostar, the high-speed international rail operator, will trial new services in May and June from Lyon and Aix-en-Provence in France to London, adding to the existing service from Avignon. Trains will run direct from London to Lyon, then on to Avignon and finally Aix-en-Provence. “By trialling this new service for future years, and by opening sales to our existing annual summer Avignon services earlier than usual, we are giving customers even more flexibility and choice when planning their trips to the south of France next year,” explained Nick Mercer, Commercial Director of the trainline.
Qatar Airways has announced plans to launch flights to Chengdu its sixth destination in China, from March 19. The Doha-based airline will operate three-times-a-week to the capital of Sichuan Province in southwest China, taking its total weekly flight frequency across the country to 41 non-stop services spread across six cities. The airline’s Chief Executive Officer, Akbar Al Baker, said, “Chengdu is another key city in a vibrant economy looking for more air capacity and we are delighted to announce our operations there from March next year. We are confident of buoyant business on the route, appealing to vital traffic flows linking South America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East to an important gateway in China.” The carrier also recently launched services to Warsaw, Poland and Phnom Penh, Cambodia and is set to launch another to Chicago, USA on April 10.
Air Canada is poised for major Asian expansion, which the airline describes as “the most far-reaching in our 75 year history”. Existing routes from Canada to Beijing, China, Seoul, Korea and Narita, Tokyo are set to increase in frequency, with a new Toronto-Seoul service commencing on June 2 and operating three times a week. There are also plans to launch an Istanbul, Turkey route that will operate three times a week.